Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

In order to understand this condition, it is important to understand the anatomy and function of the hip. Please read Hip Pain Info’s section on the anatomy of the hip.

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The ball is formed by the top of the thigh bone (the femur) and is called the “head” of the femur. The socket is formed by the bones of the pelvis and is called the acetabulum.

Articular cartilage is a smooth shiny coating that covers the head of the femur and the acetabulum. Articular cartilage allows the head of the femur to move easily inside the acetabulum.

Xray of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease
By Jfrolick – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5772794

What is Legg-Calve-Perthes disease?

In Legg-Calve-Perthes disease there is an interruption of the blood supply to the growing head of the femur (also called the capital femoral epiphysis). Without blood, the bone that forms the head of the femur can not get the nutrients that it needs. The bone is damaged and areas of the growing head of the femur die. Eventually, the blood supply to the growing head of the femur returns and the bone regenerates.

Unfortunately, in some cases of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease the growing head of the femur can lose its strength and can change its shape. When this happens there is increased stress on some areas of the head of the femur and the articular cartilage that covers it. Over a number of years this increased stress can lead to early osteoarthritis of the hip.

What causes Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease?

It is not clear what causes the blood supply to the growing head of the femur to be interrupted. Legg-Calve-Perthes disease occurs in children (most often between the ages of 5 and 10) and it is far more common in boys than in girls.

What is the treatment for Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease?

The treatment of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease depends on its severity. Most types of treatment work best when Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is detected early. Once it is detected, specialists that treat children with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can plan out a treatment program.

Hip Pain Info’s links section has additional information on osteonecrosis of the hip. Links have been provided to other websites as well as online medical journals. Visit Joint Pain Info for information on other joint injuries and problems.