Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is a hip joint condition that occurs in children when the blood supply to the head of their thighbone (femur) is limited. Without sufficient blood supply, the bone weakens and can easily break, causing soft tissue damage.
Legg-Calves-Perthes disease can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms are similar to a variety of other pediatric hip conditions we treat, like acetabular labral (hip) tears and hip impingement. At the Andrews Institute, our pediatric orthopedists are experts at diagnosing this rare condition.
Our highly skilled physicians work collaboratively to accurately diagnose pediatric hip conditions like Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. After diagnosis, we design an individualized treatment plan for your child’s unique needs.
Legg-Calves-Perthes disease happens when blood is not flowing properly to the head of the thighbone (femur), causing the bone to decay. Children with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease may have hip pain, joint stiffness and muscle weakness.
When Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is detected early, most children can be treated with nonsurgical therapies such as activity modification and rehab. We offer all the care your child needs in one convenient location.
What are the signs and symptoms of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease?
Signs and symptoms of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease include:
- Limited range of motion
- Pain in the hip, groin, thigh or knee — especially with activity
How is Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease diagnosed?
If your child is experiencing hip pain, limited range of motion or weakness in the hip joint, our physicians will conduct a thorough diagnosis to determine if Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is the problem.
Diagnostic testing may include:
- Physical exam: Looks at your child’s affected hip, checking for pain, discomfort, limited range of motion and weakness
- X-ray: Uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to take detailed images of the hipbone and thighbone
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan: Uses magnetic fields and radio waves to take detailed pictures of the hip
What are the causes of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease?
While the exact cause of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is unknown, some children are at higher risk than others for developing the condition. Risk factors for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease include:
- Activity: Physically active children are at higher risk.
- Gender: Boys are more likely than girls to develop the condition.
- Age: Children ages 4-8 are at increased risk.
How is Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease treated?
Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can be successfully treated, with the help of our expert physicians. Our treatment ensures the bone heals properly, preserving the round shape of its head. This approach helps restore the joint’s normal function and avoids other hip problems.
Nonsurgical treatments can include:
- In-house physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Medication to help manage pain
- Activity modification
- Crutches or bracing
Sometimes symptoms worsen and surgery may be required. An expert pediatric surgeon realigns the joint, to hold the thighbone head in the hip socket while the bone and joint heal. Before surgery, your child’s doctor will answer any questions you may have about your child’s procedure.
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease Doctors and Providers
John Polousky, MD Pediatric Orthopedic SurgeonService Chief at Children's HealthBoard Certification:
American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery(Orthopaedic Sports Medic,
American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
Dustin Loveland, MD Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon
Christopher Redman, MD Pediatric Orthopedic SurgeonBoard Certification:
American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Legg-Calve-Perthes disease heal without surgery?
Yes, most children can heal from Legg-Calve-Perthes disease without surgery. Physicians start with conservative treatment approaches such as rest, activity modification and rehab to repair the damage and heal the joint. If nonsurgical treatments don’t work, surgery to realign the hip joint may be necessary.
Will my child be able to return to sports after having Legg-Calve-Perthes disease?
In most cases, yes — especially if your child is treated early. Allowing the head of the thighbone to fully heal will help strengthen the joint, making it possible for your child’s hip to bear weight and have full range of motion.
What’s the long-term outlook for children with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease?
When Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is detected and treated early, physicians can help avoid further damage and decay to the head of the thighbone. If Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is left untreated, children may develop limb-length discrepancies, arthritis and other hip problems as adults.
Learn more about Legg-Calves-Perthes disease in children:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Perthes Disease