Legg-Calve-Perthes (LEG-kahl-VAY-PEER-tuz) disease is a childhood condition associated with an inadequate blood supply to part of the hip joint. Without adequate blood flow, a process can occur in which the bone becomes unstable, and may break easily and heal poorly.
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease typically affects one hip, but sometimes it develops in both hips. Although Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can affect children of nearly any age, it's most common among boys ages 2 to 12.
Children who develop Legg-Calve-Perthes disease when they're very young often have the best outcomes. The younger your child, the more time there is to reshape the affected hipbone. Most children with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease do well in the long term.
Signs and symptoms of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease include:
In some cases, pain and stiffness get better when your child rests, only to reappear once your child is active again.
When to see a doctor
The underlying cause of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease — also known as ischemic (avascular) necrosis of the hip — isn't clear. But what happens is this: Not enough blood is supplied to the ball portion of the hip joint (femoral head). Without an adequate blood supply, the femoral head deteriorates. As dying bone cells are replaced with new cells, the bone becomes unstable, and it may break easily and heal poorly.
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can affect children of nearly any age, but it's most common among boys ages 2 to 12. In fact, it's up to five times more common in boys. When girls develop Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, it tends to be more severe.
In addition, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is most common in Asians, Eskimos and whites. The disease may be more likely in physically active children who are small for their age and in those who are exposed to secondhand smoke.
Complications of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease may include:
Preparing for your appointment
Make an appointment with your child's doctor if your child develops signs or symptoms common to Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. After an initial evaluation, your child may be referred to a pediatric orthopedist, a doctor who specializes in bone and muscle (musculoskeletal) problems in children.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
Information to gather in advance
Below are some basic questions to ask your doctor about Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. If any additional questions occur to you during your visit, don't hesitate to ask.
What to expect from your doctor
What you can do in the meantime
Tests and diagnosis
Diagnosis of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is often based on a combination of:
Your child's doctor may recommend X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or bone scans to detect changes in the bones. Sometimes Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is detected incidentally during an X-ray done for other reasons.
Treatments and drugs
If your child is diagnosed with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, he or she may be referred to a pediatric orthopedic specialist for treatment.
Treatment is designed to protect the hip from further stress and injury and keep the ball of the thighbone (femur) in the hip socket. While resting the joint may help, prolonged bed rest isn't recommended. Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment options may include:
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can't be prevented. But with appropriate treatment, most children can go back to normal activities within 18 months to two years.
Last Updated: 2010-03-23
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