It may be common for your child to complain about various aches and pains that usually clear up within a few days. But be alert if your child limps for more than a few days and/or complains about pain in his or her hip, knee or pelvis. It may be more than growing pains or a sports injury. Your child's limping may indicate a serious hip problem that needs treatment as soon as possible. Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (LCPD) is a condition in which the top of the thighbone (femoral head) dies from lack of blood supply, becomes brittle and may collapse, leading to deformity and arthritis.
The cause of LCPD is not known, but doctors believe it may be related to growth hormones in the body. It can strike your child throughout the growing years. Boys get it four times as often as girls do, and it is more common in children aged 4-8, and those who are small for their age. It is uncommon for African-Americans. Most of the time, it affects only one hip. If your child has LCPD, the sooner he or she gets treatment, the better the chances of recovery.
With LCPD, your child’s aching pain is often first felt in the knee or thigh, and may build slowly over several months. The head of the thighbone fits into the hip socket (acetabulum). Without it, your child may lose the ability to rotate his or her hip. Your child’s limp may get worse with more activity, and you may notice the problem more at the end of the day. Usually a child has been limping for at least 2-3 weeks by the time he or she first sees a doctor.
With treatment, children under age 8 have a better chance of recovery from LCPD than do those who have completed, or nearly completed, their growth. Older children may have a permanently limiting condition. After the head of the thighbone dies, it may begin growing again. Your doctor may put on a cast or brace to keep your child’s leg in certain positions and use X-rays to chart the new growth. The goals are for the head of the thighbone to not be deformed while it matures and to keep the head covered by the socket. The growth process takes many months. In some cases, surgery is required.
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