Generally considered a health issue associated with children, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is a condition in which there is a temporary decrease in blood supply to the hip. This low supply of blood can lead to instability of the hip joint, making it much easier to sustain a fracture or complete break in the area that is unable to heal at a normal rate. In severe cases, the disease will manifest in both hips.
Also known as necrosis of the hip, there are several symptoms that indicate the presence of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. Limping is one of the more common indicators. The development of pain and stiffness in the hip joint, especially pain that extends down the leg to the knee, should also be seen as a warning sign of the presence of this disease. Children with this condition may also experience a decrease in the range of motion for the leg in general. A very small percentage may also find that the leg affected is slightly shorter than the other.
While taking time to rest will often help alleviate the symptoms for a short time, they usually reappear as the child resumes normal activity. Unless treatment is sought, the disease will only progress, often leading to permanent deformity of the hip joint. The child will also experience an increased risk for developing osteoarthritis later in life unless the disease is brought under control before the age of eight.
The range of treatment is usually designed to alleviate the pain from various symptoms as well as correct the underlying problem of insufficient blood flow to the hip joint. To that end, a doctor may suggest that the child be given over the counter medications like ibuprofen to relieve pain and also ease joint inflammation. The doctor will recommend a dosage range and incrementally lower it as the months go by and the disease is brought under control.
Physical therapy may also prove helpful in managing Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. Recommended exercise will help to preserve the remaining range of motion and possibly help to increase it over time. Depending on the stage of the disease, the physical therapy may take place at home or be conducted under the guidance of a physical therapist.
In some cases, the patient may have to immobilize the joint early in the treatment series. When this is the case, a hip cast or a leg brace may be utilized. This can help prevent further inflammation of the joint and allow the body’s natural healing processes to alleviate the pain and stiffness caused by the disease.
Surgery may be necessary of the Legg-Calve-Perthes disease does not respond to other treatments. Depending on the general condition of the hip, it may be repositioned to a more natural angle or replaced with a new joint. After the procedure, the leg and hip are normally placed into a cast for a period of up to eight weeks.
While there is no real way to avoid the development of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, the condition is highly treatable. In most cases, a child with this condition can receive treatment and be back to normal activities in anywhere from eighteen months to two years, even in the most severe of cases.