New device can accurately diagnose hip dysplasia

Date: April 7, 2020

A new diagnostic tool to identify hip dysplasia in newborn babies has successfully completed a small-scale trial at Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool. 

The device – which uses electronic acoustic technology proved to be very sensitive at diagnosing the condition, which affects between one and three babies out of every thousand born in the UK each year. 

If caught early, hip dysplasia can usually be treated with a simple harness to correct the displacement, which can be removed after a few weeks. But if left undiagnosed, babies commonly need complex surgery to reset the ball of the femur back into the hip socket and have to spend several months in spica casts – known as plaster trousers. Currently only a third of cases are diagnosed early enough to avoid surgery. 

Simple but sensitive 

Daniel Perry, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Alder Hey Hospital, is leading the project, supported by the IKC. He says: “Every baby is examined at birth by a doctor for a range of conditions, including hip dysplasia, but the tools we can use are not very accurate. Some countries use ultrasound on everyone, but this is both expensive and leads to lots of false positives and unnecessary treatment. 

“We believe that a more sensitive but simple tool could have a massive impact, changing the treatment pathway and the outcome for every baby born with this condition, both in the UK and beyond.” 

Mr Perry developed the prototype device with the support of engineers at Liverpool John Moores University, using funding from the IKC and Versus Arthritis. The recent trial, involving 162 babies, enabled the team to maximise the sensitivity of the device, improve the software involved and understand how to use it to get the best results. 

They are now applying for further funding to support a larger, multi-centre trial. If successful, they would then apply to the National Screening Committee of NHS England, who oversee clinical practice for screening newborns, to recommend adoption of the tool. 

Mr Perry believes the support from IKC has been instrumental in getting the technology to this stage. “It’s easy to lose sight of a project when there are so many demands on your time,” he says. “The IKC have facilitated discussions between partners, provided really useful advice and just generally helped to keep pushing things along, which has been invaluable.” 

Sarah Odoi, IP Development Manager at Versus Arthritis, says: “What’s fantastic about this project is that it is targeting the problem of osteoarthritis at the earliest possible moment – in babies – to have greatest impact. Arthritis, unlike many conditions, can be delayed or even prevented and this simple test could impact millions, while also reducing the pressure on our NHS.” 

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