Lower Paxton Twp. teen recovering from surgery to correct hip dysplasia

The Patriot-News—Harrisburg, Pa.—October 30, 2011

When Alex Fricchione complained that her hips felt like they were grinding together, her mother at first chalked it up to growing pains.

When the pain got so bad that it left the teenage athlete in tears, the Lower Paxton Twp. family began the frustrating journey of trying to get a diagnosis — and a treatment — for a condition that seemed to mystify many of the doctors they saw.

“They did some X-rays and saw nothing structural,” said Chris Fricchione, Alex’s mother. “They said she may have pulled a muscle. Then we heard it was bursitis and she was sent for physical therapy.”

Meanwhile, Alex, then a sophomore at Central Dauphin East High School, tried to keep functioning as a normal teenager, despite the dull aching pain in her hip that wandered down the inside of her leg and radiated into her back and buttocks.

“In the beginning, the pain was only when I was running. For the past six to eight months, it’s been all the time,” said Alex, 16 and now a junior. “The pain would wake me up at night even when I’d taken a sleeping pill.”

Alex was on strong pain medications, but she had to stop them because of unpleasant side effects. Eventually the pain from walking became so bad that Alex was in a wheelchair.

Finally, last summer, after two years of searching for answers, the family found out that Alex has hip dysplasia. It was diagnosed with specialized X-rays at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center but required a surgery not done in this area.

Hip dysplasia is a condition in which part of the hip joint has not developed properly. Many pet owners are familiar with it because it often is found in dogs. But, what some people don’t know is that it is also common in humans, occurring in one out of 100 people.

“This is the most common abnormality in newborns, and 90 percent of hip dysplasia in adults is not detected through newborn screening,” said Dr. Ernest Sink, director of the Center for Hip Preservation at Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, where Alex had surgery recently to correct the problem. “As children grow, the edge of the hip socket — called the acetabulum — never fully develops, so there is not enough bone supporting the ball and you end up with hip dysplasia.”

The condition mainly strikes women, perhaps because their ligaments have more laxity, Sink said. In fact, it is the most common cause of arthritis in women under age 50, he said, but many women don’t know they have it.

“Often the dysplasia is mild enough that it doesn’t cause symptoms for years. Often I see moms after they’ve had a child and the ligaments have gotten loose,” Sink said. “If the dysplasia is more severe, it will show up in the teenage years.”

For Alex, who has hip dysplasia in both sides of her hips, the diagnosis brought relief but also a certain degree of fear.

Read the full story at pennlive.com.

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