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CSP Scotland conference: A physio-led neonatal hip screening service is reducing life-long disability

9 December 2014 - 10:00am

A physiotherapy-led neonatal hip screening service is improving outcomes for babies and for the NHS.

CSP Scotland conference 2014

Delegates at the CSP Scotland conference in Dunfermline. Photo: Simon Saffery

Sally Wilkinson, a physiotherapy advanced practitioner with the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, described how the new service cut the number of late diagnoses of developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), saving money for the health service and reducing life-long disability in children.

Addressing last week’s CSP Scotland conference in Dunfermline, Fife, she explained that DDH is a relatively uncommon condition, affecting five babies in 1,000 births. If it is detected in neonates, it can be successfully treated so that the baby has a normal hip for life.

If it is not diagnosed early, it can mean multiple – and expensive – operations, including the need for total hip replacement in early adulthood.

Ms Wilkinson has specialised in neonatal hip screening for over a decade, including developing a multidisciplinary teaching programme to raise awareness and share skills in the maternity unit.

In 2001, Ms Wilkinson was appointed lead physiotherapist in the hip screening service. She described how she became an expert in neonatal hip examination by conducting thousands of them and identifying clinical signs of hip dysplasia.

The role then developed into a specialist co-ordinator and service lead, and a second physiotherapist was appointed in 2008. In addition, a multidisciplinary teaching programme was developed in the maternity unit to raise awareness and share skills.

Her work has meant the late diagnosis of dislocation rate was reduced from 10 in the year 2000 to one in the past two years; over the same period, failed splintage has reduced from four cases a year to none.

‘Edinburgh has some of the best results in Europe,’ explained Ms Wilkinson, adding that the Scottish government was keen to see the model rolled out because it was cost-effective.

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