Perthes Disease, also known as Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, is a form of Osteochondritis. It is a potentially crippling hip joint disease that affects 5.5 children out of 100,000 out of which 4:1 are boys. Children are usually diagnosed with Perthes Disease between the ages of 4 and 11 although it can be as late as 15 and as early as 2.
Perthes occurs when the blood supply to the top of the femur bone stops supplying blood to the femur head which then causes the bone in that area to become brittle and break down. The femur head, which usually looks like a round ball starts to flatten out. This process is called avascular necrosis.
There is no known cause of Perthes Disease. It is not contagious and ongoing studies have not yet concluded that it is hereditary. In most cases, Perthes Disease only seems to affect healthy, fit, active children with nothing else wrong with them although in some cases the children have had conditions such as hip dysplasia etc as babies/toddlers. The disintegration process can last 1-3 years at minimum before the blood supply to the femur head begins to repair itself and the head begins to regrow. The repair is not always perfect and the disease can lead to conditions like arthritis, back pain, unequal leg lengths and the need for hip replacements as the child grows and reaches adult age.
The signs and symptoms of Perthes Disease can be limping, pain in the knee or hip, stiffness in the hip joint, and in more severe cases the wasting of muscle in the leg.
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