Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease (or Perthes disease) is a rare hip condition in children. It occurs when the shaped head of the thigh bone—the femoral head—loses its blood supply. This causes the femoral head to collapse. Over time, the body absorbs the dead bone and replaces it with new bone. This can lead to flattening of the ball, causing the joint to become painful and stiff.

This condition affects children between the ages 2 and 12. Most children with Perthes disease are 6-9 years old. The majority of cases only affect one hip; in 10% of cases, the condition affects both hips.

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What are the signs and symptoms of Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?

  • Pain in the hip
  • Worsening pain with activity
  • Limping
  • Possible pain in the thigh or knee area
  • Possible muscle loss in the upper leg and hip

The symptoms of Perthes disease may resemble other hip conditions or concerns. It is important your child sees their doctor for diagnosis.

What causes Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease?

The cause of Perthes disease is currently unknown.

How is Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease diagnosed?

  • Physical exam
  • Diagnostic imaging, which may include:
    • X-rays
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with and/or without contrast dye

How is Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease treated?

Treatment depends on the extent of your child’s condition. There are several non-surgical options to treat Perthes disease:

  • Rest
  • Activity modification or restriction
  • Reduced weight-bearing with the use of crutches and/or a wheelchair
  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medication (e.g., ibuprofen)
  • Casting or bracing

Surgery is only necessary in more severe or complicated cases of Perthes disease. Doctors at Connecticut Children’s can determine the right plan to treat your child’s condition.