Legg-Calve-Perthes disease occurs when the ball of the thigh bone in the hip does not get enough blood, causing the bone to die.
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease usually occurs in boys 4 through 10 years old. There are many theories about the cause of this disease, but little is actually known.
Without enough blood to the area, the bone dies. The ball of the hip collapses and becomes flat. Most often, only one hip is affected, although it can occur on both sides.
The blood supply returns over several months, bringing in new bone cells. The new cells gradually replace the dead bone over 2 to 3 years.
The first symptom is often limping, which is usually painless. Sometimes there may be mild pain that comes and goes.
Other symptoms may include:
During a physical examination, the health care provider will look for a loss in hip motion and a typical limp. A hip x-ray or pelvis x-ray may show signs of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. An MRI scan may be needed.
The goal of treatment is to keep the ball of the thigh bone inside the socket. The provider may call this containment. The reason for doing this is to make sure the hip continues to have good range of motion.
The treatment plan may involve:
Surgery may be needed if other treatments do not work. Surgery ranges from lengthening a groin muscle to major hip surgery, called an osteotomy, to reshape the pelvis. The exact type of surgery depends on the severity of the problem and the shape of the ball of the hip joint.
It is important for the child to have regular follow-up visits with the doctor and an orthopedic specialist.
Outlook depends on the child's age and the severity of the disease.
Children younger than 6 years old who receive treatment are more likely to end up with a normal hip joint. Children older than age 6 are more likely to end up with a deformed hip joint, despite treatment, and may later develop arthritis in that joint.
Call for an appointment with your provider if a child develops any symptoms of this disorder.
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.