HAMPSHIRE doctors are to develop a groundbreaking programme which could reduce the number of children unable to walk because of a brain condition.

Orthopaedic surgeons at Southampton Children’s Hospital are leading the development of a hip screening programme for children with cerebral palsy and other neuromuscular disorders in a bid to identify the condition early and reduce the need for surgery.

The condition is due to a brain disorder which occurs before, during or soon after birth and can cause the muscles to tighten and pull the hip joint out of place or lead to dislocation.

It currently affects around one in 500 people in the UK, with displacement or dislocation occurring in 60 per cent of children who are not walking by the age of five.

Although hip surveillance programmes were established in Scotland three years ago and in Sweden 20 years ago to address the problem, there is no standard programme in England.

Now, experts in the city will develop an electronic database of patients screened in southern England in a bid to create a standard model that can be rolled out nationwide.

Alex Aarvold, a consultant paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton Children’s Hospital, said: “ Hip displacement or dislocation can have a major impact on a child’s life, including pain, deformity, limited mobility and an inability to carry out normal everyday activities.”

He explained that while many local cerebral palsy hip surveillance programmes exist in specialist hospitals across England, including at Southampton Children’s Hospital, there are barriers to regional implementation due to difficulties in data sharing and lack of a database of children who should be having hip surveillance.

He said: “Current hip surveillance guidelines in England are variably implemented due to the difficulty of data sharing in the community and, where local programmes do exist, patients often fall between community and hospital teams.”

Caroline Edwards, clinical lead for orthopaedics at Southampton Children’s Hospital, added: “This project will help to identify the volume of cerebral palsy patients in the community that have not been included in recommended hip surveillance programmes.”