What is Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?
Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (LEG-cal-VAY-PER-theez) is a problem in the hip. It is often called Perthes disease.
Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease occurs when blood temporarily stops flowing to the ball (femoral head) at the top of the thighbone that fits into the hip socket. If the bone does not get enough blood, it dies. The bone collapses and becomes flat. As a result, the ball no longer moves smoothly in the hip socket.
Over the course of several months, the blood supply comes back to the bone. New bone cells gradually replace the dead bone. This process may take 2 or 3 years.
The disease can occur in both hips, but usually not at the same time.
Children with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease may develop arthritis early and lose some movement in their hips.
Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease in children
Although any child can get Perthes disease, boys with the disease outnumber girls 4 to 1. Usually, they are thin, wiry, very active boys who are smaller than others their age.
Perthes disease usually develops when children are between the ages of 4 and 8. But children as young as age 2 and as old as age 12 can develop the disease.
Signs and symptoms of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease include:
• Pain or stiffness in the hip, groin, thigh or knee
• Limited range of motion of the hip joint
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease usually involves just one hip. Both hips are affected in some children, usually at different times.
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if your child begins limping or complains of hip, groin or knee pain. If your child has a fever or can’t bear weight on the leg, seek emergency medical care.
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:
• Age. Although Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can affect children of nearly any age, it most commonly occurs between ages 4 and 8.
• Your child’s sex. Legg-Calve-Perthes is up to five times more common in boys than in girls.
• Race. White children are more likely to develop the disorder than are black children.
• Family history. In a small number of cases, Legg-Calve-Perthes appears to run in families.
Children who have had Legg-Calve-Perthes disease are at higher risk of developing hip arthritis in adulthood particularly if the hip joint heals in an abnormal shape
If the hip bones don’t fit together well after healing, this can cause the joint to wear out early. Hip replacement surgery eventually may be required.
In general, children who are diagnosed with Legg-Calve-Perthes after age 6 are more likely to develop hip problems later in life.
The younger the child is, the better the chances for the hip joint healing in a normal, round shape.