Transient femoral nerve palsy is a potential complication of the use of a Pavlik harness to treat developmental dysplasia of the hip. Our hypothesis was that patients who develop a femoral nerve palsy while undergoing Pavlik harness treatment for developmental dysplasia of the hip are more likely to have unsuccessful orthotic treatment and to require closed or open hip reduction.Methods:
We performed a retrospective review of all patients who underwent Pavlik harness treatment for developmental dysplasia of the hip within a seventeen-year period (1992 to 2008). All cases of femoral nerve palsy were identified and reviewed. Thirty infants met the study criteria and formed the palsy group. A control group of seventy-nine infants who did not develop femoral nerve palsy during treatment was randomly selected.Results:
Thirty cases of femoral nerve palsy were identified from a group of 1218 patients for an incidence of 2.5%. Eighty-seven percent of femoral nerve palsies presented within one week of application of the Pavlik harness. Femoral nerve palsy was more likely in older, larger patients in whom the developmental dysplasia of the hip was of higher severity. Patients whose femoral nerve palsy resolved within three days had a 70% chance of having successful treatment with the Pavlik harness, whereas those who had not recovered by ten days had a 70% chance of having treatment failure with the Pavlik harness. The success rate associated with treatment with a Pavlik harness was 94% in our control group and 47% in our palsy group.Conclusions:
Femoral nerve palsy is an uncommon yet clinically important complication of Pavlik harness treatment for developmental dysplasia of the hip. This complication is strongly predictive of failure of treatment, and its impact is greatest when the developmental dysplasia of the hip is higher in severity. Early recognition and management of femoral nerve palsies may improve the success of treatment.Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions to Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.