WDHB celebrates rise in baby hip checks

WDHB midwife Jo McDonnell checks baby Hauiti Karena's hips.

Changes made to the way Whanganui’s newborn babies have their hips checked has seen the number of babies screened by the Whanganui District Health Board (WDHB) almost double from 49 percent to 94 percent in the space of six months.


While it’s been found as few as one baby in every thousand is born with dislocated hips, identifying those babies is very important. Dislocated hips can lead to limping and early degenerative arthritis in young adults.


“Because orthopaedic consultants and registrars are not always able to check a baby before it leaves the Maternity Ward, and the parents of babies born in rural settings are not always able to attend their Outpatient Department appointments, babies were slipping through the net unchecked,” WDHB nurse coordinator-Quality Ulyses Espiritu says.


“When Outpatient Department registered nurse Charlene Sagad and myself noticed an increase in the number of referrals to our orthopaedic outpatient clinic we became concerned and started looking for solutions with our Maternity Ward colleagues.


“Because baby hip checks are included in midwives’ scope of practise, we decided (with the support of our orthopaedic consultants and registrars) that midwives would do the checks and if a midwife felt there was a problem with a baby’s hips only then, would a baby be referred to the Outpatient Department’s orthapaedic clinic.


“The trial began in October last year and by early this year the results were so encouraging it was decided to officially hand the responsibility to our midwives working in the Maternity Ward and in rural settings.”


Mr Espiritu says another change that has been positive is that when it’s decided that a baby needs to be seen by an orthopaedic consultant or registrar, the Outpatient Department booking is made on the spot with the midwife rather than having the Outpatient Department clinic send the parents a letter at a later date.


He says it’s important that parents know that several treatments are available for babies with dislocated placed hips. WDHB brochures are provided in the newborn care package given to parents – one which explains why the checks are done and the other, which backgrounds the treatments available.