Bone, Joint and Muscle Conditions

Hip Infection

What is a hip infection?

A hip infection happens when germs get into the bone or joint and reproduce. Viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites can all cause infections.

Our skin normally has bacteria on it. It is these germs that most often cause infections in the bones and joints. A bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus (staph aureus) causes about 9 out of 10 bone and joint infections in children.

Infections in the bones and joints can cause pain and disabilities. But with proper treatment, almost all infections can be cured before they cause serious problems.

Hip infection in children

Hip infections in children are not very common. About 1 in every 3,000 children gets an infection in or around the hip.

Children who are between ages 2 and 5 are most likely to get hip infections. Children approaching their teenage years get them, too.

Hip Infection at Seattle Children’s

For more than a decade, doctors at Seattle Children’s have taken a team approach to treating bone and joint infections. Our specialists in infectious diseases and orthopedic surgery work together to help your child.

We treat more than 100 cases of bone and joint infection a year, many of them in children who have hip or pelvic infections.

Our doctors are known for developing a treatment plan for bone and joint infection that has greatly reduced the amount of time children who are being treated with medicine that kills bacteria (antibiotics) must get though an IV line.

Our doctors write and lecture on the subject of bone and joint infections regularly.

  • We see your child as a whole person. Infants, children and teens are still developing, so they may need different care than adults do, like treatment that takes their growth plates into account. Here, your child’s team has special training in the medical, surgical, emotional and social needs of young people.

  • Within Orthopedics, your child is cared for by a team with vast experience, including pediatricians, pediatric orthopedic surgeonsnurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, athletic trainers, certified medical assistants, registered orthopedic technologists and sports physical therapists.

    Complex conditions that affect your child’s bones, muscles and joints may affect other parts of their body too, from their nerves or lungs to their bladder. We connect you with the many types of Seattle Children’s experts your child needs – on the same day, in the same clinic whenever we can.

    We have the largest group of board-certified pediatric radiologists in the Northwest. Our radiologists have special expertise using ultrasound to look for bone and joint changes so we can work with your child to help prevent future problems. If your child needs imaging that uses radiation, we use the lowest amount possible to produce the best image. We also have a 3D low-dose radiation X-ray machine, called the EOS, for safer full-body 3D images.

Symptoms of Hip Infection

Symptoms of an infection in the hip include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth or redness around the hip joint or other joints

Diagnosing Hip Infection

First, our doctors examine your child, looking for signs of infection. We may gently move your child’s legs to see if they are stiff or cannot move as much as usual. We will check to see if your child’s hip or other joints are swollen, warm or red (inflamed).

The doctor may take radiographs to look for signs of swelling and changes in your child’s bones and joints.

If the doctor does not see signs of infection on the radiographs, they may ask your child to have a bone scan or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. They may also remove fluid from the hip joint using a needle (aspiration).

Treatment Options for Hip Infection

Doctors treat most bone and joint infections by giving children medicine that kills bacteria (antibiotics). If your child is very sick, they may need to get the medicine in a vein through an IV line. If your child needs an IV, they will probably be in the hospital for 4 or 5 days. During your child’s stay in the hospital, doctors may ask for several blood tests that help show how well the treatment is working. We may also ask your child to have an MRI, X-raysultrasound or a CT (computed tomography) scan to track progress.

Minimally invasive surgery for hip infection

Sometimes very sick children must have surgery. This is because hip infections can cause pus to form in the joint, and the pus usually must be drained. To drain the pus, doctors most often make a small cut (incision) on the front of the thigh just below the hip joint.

What to expect after treatment

Once your child leaves the hospital, they will have to take antibiotics by mouth for 3 or 4 weeks.

Contact Us

Contact Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at 206-987-2109 for an appointment, a second opinion or more information.

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