A Pavlik harness is a splint that is often used to treat
developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) in babies
younger than 6 months. The harness has fabric straps and fasteners that fit
around a baby's chest, shoulders, and legs. The harness holds the baby's legs
in a spread position, with the hips bent so that the thighs are out to the
sides. This keeps the head of the thighbone (femur) in the correct position in
the hip socket for normal development. The harness also allows the baby to move
the hip joint, which helps the thighbone to deepen the hip socket.
The Pavlik harness successfully makes the hip
normal about 90% of the time.1 The harness is usually
worn all the time for the first few weeks of treatment. The child may be able to be out of the harness
for an hour or so each
day for bathing and for the harness to be cleaned. Later, the child may need to wear
the harness only at night or during naps. If the femoral head stays properly
located in the hip socket and the hip joint is stable, the child is slowly
"weaned" from the harness. The child may need to wear the harness for several
Because babies grow rapidly, the straps and fasteners may
need to be adjusted every 1 to 2 weeks. If the harness is improperly
positioned, bone or nerve damage can develop. The straps can irritate the
The harness fails to correct DDH about 10% of the
time. In these cases, the harness is removed if the hips show no improvement
after 3 to 4 weeks and other treatment options are explored.1
Rab GT (2006). Developmental dysplasia of the hip
section of Pediatric orthopedic surgery. In HB Skinner, ed., Current Diagnosis and Treatment in Orthopedics, 4th ed., pp.
603–608. New York: Lange Medical Books/McGraw-Hill.
March 12, 2012
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
& John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
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