Orthopedic Conditions: Newborns

Common Orthopedic Problems Found in Babies

There are several unique orthopedic problems that can occur in newborns. Your baby's pediatrician will look for these common conditions, and possibly refer your child to a pediatric orthopedic specialist if there is any concern.

Some of these conditions occur as part of your baby's development, and others can occur as a result of delivery.  Like any other age group, newborns have several conditions that tend to occur most commonly in this age range.  Below are some of the common orthopedic conditions that are found in newborns.

Hip Dysplasia

Newborn at hospital
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Hip dysplasia is a problem that causes the hip joint to form abnormally. When a baby is born, the hip joint is still forming; therefore, when hip dysplasia is found early, there is a better chance of successful treatment.

When the ball-and-socket of the hip joint is not in proper position, the joint will not develop normally. Treatment of hip dysplasia in newborns is usually accomplished by holding the hip in proper position with a brace.

When hip dysplasia is found later, more invasive treatments may be necessary to restore proper alignment of the joint.  It is important to achieve correction of the hip alignment, as an abnormally formed hip joint can lead to problems later in life, particularly hip arthritis.

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Clubfoot

Clubfoot is a condition that causes the feet to point down and inward. Because the foot is held into an abnormal position, the development of the foot bones and joints will be abnormal. Fortunately, when treatment is initiated early, there is a good chance of correcting the problem without surgery.

Much like patients with hip dysplasia, early treatment is often associated with better outcomes.  By restoring alignment of the feet at an earlier stage of development, the likelihood of correction is much better.

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Metatarsus Adductus

baby feet
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Metatarsus adductus is a foot condition where the toes and forefoot point inwards. The foot takes on a typical 'bean-shaped' appearance. Treatment of metatarsus adductus is almost always successful with simple observation, with over 90% of feet improving spontaneously.

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Birth Injury

Birth injuries are most common around the shoulder. Injuries to the nerves around the shoulder (brachial plexus injuries) and clavicle fractures are the most commonly seen problems. Other types of fractures, such as femur fractures, can also be seen. Fortunately, most of these injuries will heal with a simple splint, or no treatment at all.

Joint Infections

Infections of the joint, called a septic joint, are a worrisome problem in newborns. Diagnosis of a joint infection is difficult because the child may not have abnormal blood tests, may not have a high fever, and cannot tell you what hurts. Infections within a joint require prompt treatment to prevent possibly permanent damage to joint cartilage.

When a newborn or young child is not moving a joint, your doctor will often observe the child carefully to ensure there is not infection.  If there may be an infection, a needle should be inserted into the joint to evaluate the fluid for signs of infection.

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