Hip Infection

What is a hip infection?

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

Our skin normally has bacteria on it. These germs sometimes get inside the body and are the most common cause of bone and joint infections. 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. With proper treatment, almost all infections can be cured before they cause serious problems.

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

Why choose Seattle Children’s for hip infection treatment?

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Doctors at Seattle Children’s take a team approach to treating bone and joint infections. Specialists from Orthopedics and Sports Medicine and Infectious Diseases and Virology work together closely to help your child. We focus on getting rid of the infection and preventing or treating any related problems that might develop.

Experts from our Child and Young Adult Hip Preservation Program are also involved in care for hip infections to protect or restore your child’s hip function.

Each year, Seattle Children’s treats more than 100 children with a bone or joint infection. Many of them have hip or pelvic infections.

  • The experts you need are here
    • Your child’s team includes doctors, surgeons, and from Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. We specialize in caring for kids’ bones, muscles and joints.
    • Our Infectious Disease team has special training in how to treat infections in children, including infections that are common and those that are rare. We focus on giving your child the best and safest treatment with the fewest side effects.
    • We also involve specialists in and any other areas of Seattle Children’s that your child may need. Accurate diagnosis is the first step to effective treatment. Our team is experienced in making high-quality imaging studies using , , advanced ,  and .
    • We can successfully treat hip infections in children with and surgery. We recommend surgery only when we believe it will give your child the best results. If your child needs surgery, our surgeons have many years of experience in treating children with hip infections. Each of our hip surgeons is . Many have expanded fellowship training.
    • Dr. Todd Blumberg leads the Child and Young Adult Hip Preservation Program. He focuses on treating hip conditions from infancy into adulthood. Blumberg is the only dual fellowship-trained pediatric and hip preservation surgeon in the region. Seattle Children’s does more hip preservation surgeries for young people than any other center in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Care from birth through young adulthood
    • We specialize in caring for kids. This means our experts have the knowledge, training and skills to treat the youngest patients, from babies through young adults. Young people with hip problems may need different treatments than adults do.
    • Babies, children and teens are still developing. When we evaluate your child’s condition, plan their treatment and provide their care, we carefully consider their growth. We think about how growth may affect their hip over time. We also consider how their hip may affect the rest of their development and health. Here, your child’s team has special training in the physical, emotional and social needs of young people.
    • If your child needs imaging that uses radiation, we use the lowest amount possible (PDF) to make the best image. We have a low-dose radiation X-ray machine, called the EOS. It makes safer full-body images. We also have the largest group of pediatric radiologists in the Northwest.


  • Support for your whole family
    • Having a child with a hip infection can be stressful for the whole family. From the first visit to follow-up, our team will work to give your child seamless care and make your experience here as easy on you as we can.
    • Your child’s team does more than plan and provide care for your child. We also make sure you and your child understand your child’s condition and treatment options. We support you in making choices that are right for your family.
    • For your convenience, our doctors see patients at locations in Seattle, Bellevue, Everett and Federal Way. We bring high-quality care closer to where you live.
    • Seattle Children’s serves families from around the Northwest and beyond. We can help with financial counseling, education, housing, transportation, interpreter services, spiritual care and more. Our Child Life specialists, Family Resource Center and Guest Services are here to help. Read more about our services for patients and families.
  • Research and advances to improve care
    • Our team members partner with experts around the world on research. Together, they work to understand the causes of hip conditions, improve the accuracy of diagnostic testing and create better surgical approaches.
    • We track long-term results of our patients so we can improve care for young people with hip problems. For example, we ask patients about their experience before and after treatment to make sure our approach improves quality of life and function.
    • Seattle Children’s doctors regularly write and lecture on the subject of bone and joint infections to help make sure children everywhere get the best possible care.
    • Our surgeons have led research to reduce your child’s exposure to radiation from imaging tests, like  and .
    • As part of our constant work to improve results for kids, we developed standard plans (called protocols) to help your child recover after surgery.
    • Learn more about current orthopedics research at Seattle Children’s.

What are the symptoms of a hip infection?

Symptoms of an infection in the hip may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth or redness around the hip joint or other joints
  • Fever
  • Not wanting to move the leg
  • Trouble walking

How is a hip infection diagnosed?

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).

Often, we do an to look for fluid build-up around the hip. The doctor may take 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 X-rays, they may ask your child to have an . They may also remove fluid from the hip joint using a needle (aspiration). We use the fluid to check for infection or other conditions that might explain your child’s symptoms, like .

How is a hip infection treated?

Doctors treat bone and joint infections by giving children medicine that kills bacteria (). Sometimes, children need surgery to drain the infected area.

Medicines for hip infection

Your child will probably need to get antibiotics through an line. If your child needs an IV, they will probably be in the hospital for 4 or 5 days. Seattle Children’s doctors are known for developing a treatment plan for bone and joint infections that greatly reduced how long children need IV antibiotics.

During your child’s stay in the hospital, doctors may ask for blood tests that help show how well the treatment is working. We may also ask your child to have an MRI, X-ray, or  to track their healing.

Surgery for hip infection

Sometimes very sick children must have surgery to drain the infection because they are not getting better with antibiotics alone. To drain the infection, doctors most often make a small cut (incision) on the front of the thigh just below the hip joint. This lets them get to the infected area and wash it out.

What to expect after a hospital stay

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

Your child’s team at Seattle Children’s will make sure you understand your child’s bone and joint infection treatment plan (PDF), like how to take care of the infection at home and how to schedule follow-up appointments.

After the infection is gone

After the infection is gone, most children have no further problems. But sometimes a problem does develop due to an infection. For example, some bone in the hip may die if it did not get enough blood and nutrients for a while (avascular necrosis).

This may lead to problems as a child grows, like part of the bone growing less than the rest. Growth problems could lead to differences in the length of the child’s legs or trouble with the thighbone fitting, staying or moving well in the hip socket (hip dysplasia).

Your child’s team will check for signs of problems like this and also make sure you know what signs to watch for and when to call the doctor.

The team from Seattle Children’s Child and Young Adult Hip Preservation Program treats hip problems that might happen after an infection. We focus on helping children and teens keep their natural hip and delay or avoid hip replacement. We also work with young adults in their 20s who are seeking care. For those who do need an artificial hip, we offer this option as well. Learn more.

Contact Us

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

Providers, see how to refer a patient.

Paying for Care

Learn about paying for care at Seattle Children’s, including insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.