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When Your Child Has Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

Your child has been diagnosed with Legg-Calvé-Perthes (LCP) disease.  It is a problem with the head of the thighbone (femoral head). The femoral head is the ball-like part of the bone that fits into the hip socket. With LCP disease, the blood supply to the femoral head stops. The reason for this is unknown. As a result, the femoral head becomes weak. A portion of it dies. LCP disease can be serious. But it can be treated. Your child may see an orthopaedist for evaluation and treatment. An orthopaedist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats bone, muscle, and ligament problems.

Closeup front view of hip joint showing femur and femoral head fitting into socket in pelvis. Blood vessels wrap around femur and go to femoral head. Growth plate is across femoral head.
In a normal hip joint, the femoral head is smooth and round.

Front view of top part of femur with damaged femoral head. Dotted line shows rounded shape of normal femoral head.
With LCP disease, the femoral head is damaged and loses its normal shape.

What Causes LCP Disease?

It is unknown why blood flow to the femoral head stops. But it is known that boys aged 4-8 are most likely to develop LCP disease. It may also happen more commonly in some families.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of LCP Disease?

  • Achy pain in the groin, hip, or knee (knee pain occurs when the pain from the hip travels to the knee)

  • Loss of range of motion (movement) in the hip

  • Walking with a limp. The limp is usually more noticeable after activity. And it may be painless.

  • Groin, hip, or knee pain while resting

How is LCP Disease Diagnosed?

The doctor will ask about your child’s health history and examine your child. The doctor will check for a limp, stiffness in the hip, and for loss of motion. An X-ray will be done. An MRI and CT scan may also be done. These are tests that take images of the inside of the body. They help the doctor properly diagnose the condition.

How is LCP Disease Treated?

The doctor will talk with you about the best treatment plan for your child. As instructed, your child should:

  • Rest from sports and exercise. The doctor will tell you when it is safe for your child to resume exercise.

  • Take anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, as directed.

  • Wear a cast or brace to support the leg while it heals. (This treatment is used for very young children.)

  • Use crutches or a walker, if instructed.

  • See a physical therapist (PT) for a supervised program of exercises. Your child’s physical therapist or healthcare provider may also ask your child to do strengthening exercises at home.

Some injuries require surgery. Your child’s doctor will talk with you about surgery if it is needed.

What are the Long-Term Concerns?

The amount of damage done to the femoral head also affects the outcome. If able to heal, it often takes 2-3 years for the femoral head to repair. In more severe cases, the femoral head dies and collapses. If it collapses and loses its round shape, some loss of range of motion and a limp will result. Arthritis in the hip joint later in life is also a concern with LCP. The doctor can tell you more about your child’s condition.

Online Medical Reviewer: Finke, Amy, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 3/12/2013
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.