Ortolani Test

Learn about the Ortolani Test for detecting hip dislocation in infants, including the procedure, symptoms, and how to use our comprehensive test template.

By Nate Lacson on Jun 03, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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What is a hip dislocation?

Hip dislocation in infants, medically termed as developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH), involves the ball of the femur not being properly aligned with the hip socket. This misalignment can vary in severity from mild displacement, where the ball is partially out of the socket, to complete dislocation, where the ball is entirely displaced.

Detecting and treating this condition early is crucial as it plays a significant role in ensuring normal hip development and avoiding future complications.

Symptoms of hip dislocation

Recognizing hip dislocation early in a child’s life can be challenging as it might not be immediately apparent at birth. Infants with this condition might show signs such as asymmetrical leg positioning, where one leg might appear shorter, or a difference in thigh folds. In cases where one leg is affected, the child might demonstrate a restricted range of motion on that side.

As they grow older, symptoms like limping or walking on toes might become evident, especially if the condition remains untreated.

Problems hip dislocation causes

If hip dislocation is left untreated, it can lead to a number of developmental challenges and physical complications. The child might develop a noticeable limp or an abnormal walking pattern. Over time, this can lead to discomfort or pain in the hip, which might restrict the child's ability to move freely. Moreover, there is a heightened risk of developing osteoarthritis in the hip at a younger age, which can significantly affect the individual's quality of life.

Printable Ortolani Test

Download this Ortolani Test to assess hip joint stability and aid in diagnosing developmental dysplasia of the hip in infants, assisting healthcare professionals in pediatric orthopedic assessments.

What is the Ortolani Test?

The Ortolani Test is a clinical examination used to detect developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH, also known as developmental hip dysplasia) in infants. Developed by Italian pediatrician Marino Ortolani, this test helps identify if the hip joint is correctly positioned in its socket. The test is particularly valuable because DDH can be asymptomatic and may not be visibly apparent. Early diagnosis through the Ortolani Test can lead to timely treatment, which is crucial for normal hip development.

Typically, the Ortolani Test is paired with the Barlow Test to comprehensively evaluate the hip's stability. The Barlow Test is performed first to determine if the hip can be dislocated from its socket with gentle pressure, indicating instability. Then, the Ortolani Test is done to check if a dislocated hip can be moved back into its correct position. This sequence is important because it tests both the dislocatability and the reducibility of the hip joint, covering a full spectrum of potential abnormalities.

The primary purpose of the Ortolani Test is to prevent the complications associated with undiagnosed and untreated hip dislocations, such as chronic pain, limping, and osteoarthritis. Early detection leads to simpler and more effective treatment options, often involving less invasive procedures and reducing the likelihood of long-term disability.

How is this conducted?

Conducting the Ortolani Test involves a specific technique to ensure accuracy and safety. Here’s a step-by-step guide typically followed by healthcare professionals:

  1. The infant should be calm and relaxed, ideally lying down with its legs in a natural, bent position. It’s crucial for the baby not to cry, as tension in the legs can affect the test's outcome.
  2. The examiner places the infant in a supine position with their hips and knees flexed at a 90-degree angle. This standard position is critical for accurately assessing hip stability.
  3. The healthcare provider holds the baby’s knees gently with their fingers and places their thumbs on the inner thighs, close to the lesser trochanter of the femur. The fingers support the outer side of the hip.
  4. While stabilizing the pelvis with one hand, the examiner gently abducts the infant's legs outward and applies a slight pressure upwards towards the greater trochanter. The movement aims to coax the head of the femur back into the acetabulum if it is dislocated.
  5. A successful relocation of the hip joint is indicated by a palpable sensation (such as a distinctive "clunk" sound) as the femoral head pops back into place. The absence of this sound might indicate a negative test but should be evaluated in conjunction with the Barlow Test for a comprehensive assessment.

This careful procedure requires training and experience to interpret correctly and is typically repeated several times to confirm the diagnosis.

Next steps after interpreting results

After performing the Ortolani Test and interpreting the results, healthcare professionals follow several key steps to ensure appropriate follow-up and management:

  • Referral: If the Ortolani Test results are positive, indicating a dislocated hip that successfully relocates during the test, the immediate step is to refer the infant to a pediatric orthopedic specialist. These specialists can provide a detailed assessment and confirm the diagnosis with imaging studies such as ultrasound or X-rays.
  • Treatment planning: Depending on the severity of the hip dysplasia and the age of the child, treatment options may vary. Common interventions include the use of a Pavlik harness, which helps to hold the baby's hip in the correct position to encourage normal development. In more severe cases, surgical interventions might be necessary.
  • Monitoring and follow-up: Regular follow-up appointments are critical to monitor the hip's development and the effectiveness of the treatment plan. These check-ups allow adjustments to be made as needed and ensure that the hip is developing normally.
  • Parental guidance and support: Educating the parents or caregivers about the condition, treatment plan, and the importance of follow-up care is essential. Providing clear instructions and support helps ensure adherence to treatment protocols and reduces anxiety associated with the diagnosis and management of hip dysplasia.

By following these steps, healthcare professionals can effectively manage developmental dysplasia of the hip and improve outcomes for affected infants.

How to use our Ortolani Test template

Our Ortolani Test template is designed to streamline the process of documenting and evaluating the test's outcomes, ensuring that healthcare professionals can efficiently record essential details and facilitate ongoing care. It contains a consent form for the caretaker, a pre-test checklist, a step-by-step procedure, fields for the examiner's findings, and fields for additional notes and contact information.

Here’s how to make the most of this resource:

Step 1: Access this template

First, healthcare professionals need to access the template via the Carepatron app or download it from our Resource Library. This digital document can be filled out on a device or printed out. If you open it in the app, you can also customize it and share it with the patient or other healthcare professionals on the app.

Step 2: Explain the template

Before performing the test, it is crucial for healthcare providers to explain the procedure to the parents or caregivers. Use the template to go through each section, explaining what information will be recorded and why it is important. This ensures that the caregivers are well-informed about the purpose and nature of the test, which can help in reducing anxiety and gaining their cooperation.

Step 3: Fill out the template during the examination

As the Ortolani Test is conducted, fill in the template in real time. This includes checking off completed steps in the pre-test checklist, documenting any findings during the test such as the presence or absence of a "clunk," and noting any additional observations. This real-time documentation ensures accuracy and provides a detailed record that can be referred to later or shared with specialists.

Step 4: Utilize the results section

After the test, complete the results section of the template. This may involve marking whether the test was positive or negative and detailing the next steps, such as referrals to specialists or additional imaging required. This section is crucial for ensuring the follow-up plan is clear and actionable.

By utilizing our Ortolani Test template, healthcare professionals can enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of newborn screenings for a dysplastic hip, ensuring that critical information is accurately captured and appropriately acted upon.

Ortolani Test example (sample)

To demonstrate the practical application of our Ortolani Test template, Carepatron has created a sample document filled out with fictitious information. This example features a patient whose test results indicated a positive Ortolani sign, suggesting the presence of hip dysplasia. The sample includes completed sections such as patient and examiner details, consent form, pre-test checklist, test findings, and recommended next steps.

This sample serves as a valuable reference for healthcare professionals, helping them understand how to accurately fill out the template during actual examinations.

Download our free Ortolani Test template example here.

Ortolani Test example (sample)

Is this a diagnostic test?

The Ortolani Test is a clinical screening tool rather than a definitive diagnostic test. It is used primarily to detect the potential presence of developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) in infants. A positive Ortolani sign, indicated by a distinctive "clunk" as the hip joint is maneuvered, suggests that the hip may be dislocated. However, this test alone cannot confirm the diagnosis of DDH.

To definitively diagnose DDH, further assessments are required, including imaging studies such as ultrasound or X-rays, especially in infants older than six weeks. These imaging techniques provide a clear view of the bone structures and the positioning of the hip joint, which are essential for accurate diagnosis and determining the appropriate course of treatment.

Therefore, while the Ortolani Test is crucial for early screening, it must be followed by additional diagnostic procedures to confirm the presence of hip dysplasia and to plan effective early treatment strategies.

How do you check for hip dysplasia?
How do you check for hip dysplasia?

Commonly asked questions

How do you check for hip dysplasia?

To check for hip dysplasia, healthcare providers often use physical exams like the Ortolani and Barlow tests and imaging techniques such as ultrasound or X-rays, especially in infants and young children.

What is the Ortolani test for?

The Ortolani test is performed to check for developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) in infants by detecting if the dislocated hip can be relocated into the socket during the examination.

What is a positive Ortolani test indicative of?

A positive Ortolani test, indicated by a distinctive "clunk" as the hip pops back into place, suggests that the hip was dislocated but could be relocated, pointing to potential hip dysplasia.

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