Background and purpose — The shelf arthroplasty was the regular treatment for residual hip dysplasia before it was substituted by the peri-acetabular osteotomy. Yet, evidence regarding the survival of shelf arthroplasty surgery has never been systematically documented. Hence, we investigated the survival time of the shelf procedure until revision to THA in patients with primary hip dysplasia. Factors that influenced survival and complications were also examined, along with the accuracy of correcting radiographic parameters to characterize dysplasia. Material and methods — The inclusion criteria were studies of human adolescents and adults (> 16 years) with primary or congenital hip dysplasia who were treated with a shelf arthroplasty procedure. Data were extracted concerning patient characteristics, survival time, complications, operative techniques, and accuracy of correcting radiographic parameters. Results — Our inclusion criteria were applicable to 9 studies. The average postoperative Center-Edge Angle and Acetabular Head Index were mostly within target range, but large variations were common. Kaplan–Meier curves (endpoint: conversion to THA) varied between 37% at 20 years’ follow-up and 72% at 35 years’ follow-up. Clinical failures were commonly associated with pain and radiographic osteoarthritis. Only minor complications were reported with incidences between 17% and 32%. Interpretation — The shelf arthroplasty is capable of restoring normal radiographic hip parameters and is not associated with major complications. When carefully selected on minimal osteoarthritic changes, hip dysplasia patients with a closed triradiate cartilage may benefit from the shelf procedure with satisfactory survival rates. The importance of the shelf arthroplasty in relation to peri-acetabular osteotomies needs to be further (re)explored.