Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is a condition that affects the hip joint in children aged 4 to 6 years. The condition is characterized by a weakness in the ball of the femur bone where it connects with the hip socket. If your child has pain standing on one leg or is unable to fully flex their hip joint, they may be suffering from Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.

If your child has Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, our pediatric orthopedics program team can help diagnose the problem, give your child the best treatment available and help improve their quality of life.

Wellness and Prevention

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is caused by an interruption in blood supply to the femoral head, causing the bone tissue to start dying and resulting in brittleness and challenges in healing. However, what is not fully understood is what causes the initial interruption in blood supply. Ensuring your child grows up healthy and active is important and may help all their bones, including the hip joint, to grow well.

Diagnosis

When you come in suspecting there may be a problem with your child’s hip movement, a pediatric orthopedic doctor will perform a series of hip range of motion exercises to determine whether there are any limitations to movement. In addition, they may order imaging tests, including:

  • X-rays: A series of X-rays over time can determine the progression of the disease. While initial X-rays may appear normal, subsequent X-rays may show the changes happening to the hip joint as a result of the disease.
  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging is a more reliable way of diagnosing Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. Using a strong magnet and radio waves, the doctor is able to get detailed imagery of the joint structures.
  • Bone scans: This type of scan utilizes radioactive markers injected into a vein and absorbed by any rapidly multiplying bone cells. When scanned, the affected area becomes easy to identify.

Treatments

Treatments for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease are all targeted at reinforcing the ball part of the hip joint (femoral head) and ensuring it is as smooth as possible when locked into the hip socket. Treatments available include:

Therapy

Therapeutic treatments are aimed at managing symptoms. This mode of treatment is recommended for children below the ages of 6 or 7 as their bones are still growing and can self-heal. Therapy treatments may include physiotherapy, crutches, traction and casts.

Surgery

If therapeutic treatments are not working or if your child is past the age of seven, you may need to schedule surgical treatment to prevent complications such as arthritis later in life. Surgical procedures that are used to treat Legg-Calve-Perthes disease include joint realignment, contracture release, excess bone removal and, in extreme cases, hip replacement.

Aftercare

Whether your child has had therapeutic non-invasive treatments or surgical treatments, your child may need to follow a few aftercare recommendations to prevent further damage and ensure they heal properly. These typically include:

Activity changes: Your child will need to avoid high-impact activities such as running and jumping. Sports involving these activities should also be avoided.

Pain management: Because of the pain involved during the healing process, you may need to help your child manage the pain with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen.

Hot or cold packs: This age-old remedy can alleviate pain at the joint. Apply a cold or hot pack to ease discomfort. Use a hot pack only when exercising the joint, as the heat will loosen the muscles around the joint.