Legg-Calve-Perthes (LEG-kahl-VAY-PER-tuz) disease is a childhood condition that affects the hip. The thighbone and pelvis meet in a ball-and-socket joint. Legg-Calve-Perthes occurs when blood supply is temporarily interrupted to the ball part of the joint. That part of the bone then breaks more easily and heals poorly. The cause of the condition is not known despite considerable research.
Although Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can affect children of nearly any age, it's most common among boys ages 4 to 8.
Treatment focuses on keeping the ball part of the joint as round as possible while it heals, which can take two years or more. In some cases, physical therapy, exercises or casts are used to hold the ball firmly within its socket. Surgery is also an option, but most children with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease recover well without surgery.
Signs and symptoms of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease include:
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease usually involves just one hip, but both hips are affected in some children.
When to see a doctor
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease occurs when too little blood is supplied to the ball portion of the hip joint (femoral head). Without an adequate blood supply, this bone becomes unstable, and it may break easily and heal poorly. The underlying cause of the temporary reduction in blood flow to the femoral head is still unknown.
Risk factors for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease include:
Children who have had Legg-Calve-Perthes disease are more likely to develop early osteoarthritis in the affected hip.
Preparing for your appointment
You'll probably first bring your concerns to the attention of your child's doctor. After an initial evaluation, your child may be referred to a doctor who specializes in bone problems in children (pediatric orthopedist).
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
During the physical exam, your doctor may move your child's legs into various positions to check range of motion and to see if any of the positions cause pain.
Treatments and drugs
As Legg-Calve-Perthes disease progresses, the ball part of the joint (femoral head) weakens and fractures — losing its nice round shape. The goal of treatment is to keep the femoral head as round as possible, so the hip will work properly in the future. Doctors use a variety of treatments to keep the femoral head snug in the socket portion of the joint. The socket acts as a mold for the fractured femoral head as it heals.
The length of time required for healing will vary, depending on the severity of the bone's damage. In most cases, treatment will last for two years or longer.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Home care measures to reduce pain and prevent damage include:
Last Updated: 2012-07-17
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