Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease: Overview

What is Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease is a condition of the hip in which the blood supply to the top of the thigh bone (femoral head) is temporarily disrupted.  This causes pain and inflammation in the hip joint, as well as changes to the bone structure.  When the blood supply is disrupted, the head of the femur is weakened and changes shape.  This bone weakening causes the head of the femur to collapse and no longer move smoothly in the hip socket. 

Although there are several stages in this condition, the blood supply will eventually return and your child’s bone will heal. When the bone heals, the shape of the head of the femur is no longer normal. The shape of the bone after it heals will determine how the hip joint will be affected later in life.

What causes Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?

Unfortunately, there is no known cause for this disease. We do know that the decrease in blood flow to the ball shaped end of the thigh bone (femoral head) is generally what leads to hip injury in Perthes patients. However, it remains unknown why the blood flow to the femoral head becomes affected.

Perthes disease is relatively uncommon and there is ongoing research at medical centers around the United States that are working toward identifying a cause. The International Perthes Study Group is one organization formed by several international pediatric hip specialists around the world who are working together trying to advance the knowledge about Perthes disease. Our providers at the Child and Young Adult Hip program are proud to be part of the International Perthes Study Group.

Who gets Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?

Children between the ages of 2 and 12 are most commonly affected. Boys are more often affected than girls. The recovery can vary from patient to patient, but is often better when a diagnosis is reached in younger patients.

Helpful resources:
Perthes disease information from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons 

Next: Signs and Symptoms

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