Objective: Australian screening programmes for congenital dislocation of the hip (CDH) are characterized by lower neonatal hip instability (NHI) detection rates than more successful international programmes. Through creating a quality, accountable clinical screening programme for NHI detection, the present study aimed to establish the true incidence of NHI in Australian babies and to eliminate 'late diagnosed' CDH.
Methods: Doctors responsible for routine neonatal care were made accountable for NHI detection and examined 5166 consecutive live births in the first days of life between 1989 and 2000. Techniques for clinical NHI detection were taught, and doctors practised with teaching-mannequins. Paediatricians clinically determined true positive NHI cases and managed them for a 12-month period. Peer review of NHI detection rates was introduced to encourage accountability. Surveillance for 'late diagnosed' CDH occurred regularly through a variety of methods.
Results: One hundred babies with NHI were detected (19.4 per 1000): 77% were female; 26% were breech presentation, 25% had a family history of hip instability; and all received some form of splinting. Follow up for 85% of these babies at 12 months revealed no significant complications. Extensive searching has revealed no baby with 'late diagnosed' CDH from the study population in 12 years. One baby commenced treatment late (at 4 months) because of a failure of process following early NHI detection.
Conclusions: The true incidence of NHI in Australia is > or =19 per 1000 births. Successful clinical CDH screening programmes using primary care doctors can be created and might eliminate 'late diagnosed' CDH.