Legg-Calve-Perthes disease

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is Legg-Calve-Perthes disease?

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is a condition that occurs when the top of the femur, called the ball, doesn’t receive enough blood. A lack of blood damages the bone and can deform it permanently. The ball is at the top of the femur and fits into the hip socket. This condition cuts off blood supply to the ball, causing the bone to die. This process is called avascular necrosis. The part of the femur affected becomes flat and deformed and is at risk of breaking away from the hip. The cartilage to the ball loses its supporting bone and the ball collapses.

How common is Legg-Calve-Perthes disease?

Although Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can affect children of nearly any age, it most commonly occurs between ages 4 and 8. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease?

The common symptoms of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease are:

  • Limping
  • Knee pain
  • Groin pain
  • Reduced muscle strength in the thigh
  • A decreased range of motion
  • Shortening of the affected leg

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes Legg-Calve-Perthes disease?

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease happens when too little blood is supplied to the ball portion of the hip joint (femoral head). Without an adequate blood supply, this bone becomes unstable, and it may break easily and heal poorly. The underlying cause of the temporary reduction in blood flow to the femoral head is still unknown.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease?

There are many risk factors for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, such as:


Although Legg-Calve-Perthes disease can affect children of nearly any age, it most commonly occurs between ages 4 and 8.

Your child’s sex

Legg-Calve-Perthes is up to five times more common in boys than in girls.


White children are more likely to develop the disorder than are black children.

Family history

In a small number of cases, Legg-Calve-Perthes appears to run in families.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Legg-Calve-Perthes disease diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. These tests may include:

  • X-rays

Initial X-rays may look normal because it can take one to two months after symptoms begin for the damage associated with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease to become evident on X-rays. Your doctor will likely recommend several X-rays over time, to track the progression of the disease.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

This technology uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce very detailed images of bone and soft tissue inside the body. MRIs often can visualize bone damage caused by Legg-Calve-Perthes disease more clearly than X-rays can.

  • Bone scan

In this test, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein. The material is attracted to areas where bone is rapidly breaking down and rebuilding itself, so these areas show up on the resulting scan images.

How is Legg-Calve-Perthes disease treated?

The goal of treatment is to keep the femoral head as round as possible.

Surgery usually isn’t needed for children younger than 6. They still have a lot of growing left to do so the femoral head has more time to repair the damage caused by Legg-Calve-Perthes. Most of this younger age group heals well with conservative treatments.

If your child is younger than 6 or 7, your doctor may just order observation and symptomatic treatment with stretching, limited running and jumping, and medications as needed. Other nonsurgical treatments include:

Physical therapy

As the hip stiffens, the muscles and ligaments around it may shorten. Stretching exercises can help keep the hip more flexible and keep the hip in the socket.


In some cases, your child may need to avoid bearing weight on the affected hip. Using crutches can help protect the joint.


If your child is in severe pain, a period of bed rest and traction may help. Traction involves a steady and gentle pulling force on your child’s leg.


To keep the femoral head deep within its socket, your doctor may recommend a special type of leg cast that keeps both legs spread widely apart for four to six weeks. After this a night-time brace is sometimes used to maintain hip flexibility.

Most of the orthopedic treatments for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease are aimed at improving the shape of the hip joint to prevent arthritis later in life.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Legg-Calve-Perthes disease?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease:

Activity modification

Your child should avoid high-impact activities, such as running or jumping, because they can increase the amount of damage to the weakened bone and worsen symptoms.

Pain medication

Over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) can help relieve pain. Don’t give your child aspirin as it’s been linked to a rare, but serious, condition called Reye’s syndrome.

Heat or cold

Hot packs or ice may help relieve hip pain associated with Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: August 22, 2017 | Last Modified: September 12, 2019

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