Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease (LCPD)

Legg-Calve-Perthes is a disease of the hip. With this disease, the head of the femur (thighbone) that sits in the hip joint breaks down. This happens because the hip joint does not get enough blood.

The disease is temporary and will resolve over time.

A child with this disease is often very active compared to other children. The onset of the disease usually occurs when the child is between 3 and 12 years old. It is most common in children ages 5 to 7 years old. Boys are 3 to 5 times more likely than girls to develop the disease. 

The child often has a limp and may lean side to side when walking. The limp may get worse late in the day or after activities, but gets better with rest.

Some children complain of pain in the groin, front of the thigh, or knee that gets worse with physical activity. The pain often is worse late in the day and some children may have pain at night.

Most children have muscle spasms that limit the movement in their hip.

X-rays are used to confirm diagnosis. A bone scan or MRI may also be used.

  1. Initial Stage (lasts about six months)
    • The child’s symptoms may get better and then get worse.
  2. Fragmentation Stage (lasts about eight months)
    • This is the stage where the head of the femur breaks down.
    • The child’s pain and limp become more obvious.
    • There is more loss of motion in the hip.
    • The degree of symptoms may vary from child to child.
  3. Healing Period (lasts about four years)
    • New bone grows in the head of the femur.
      • The pain and limp usually start to improve.
      • Some limitation of hip motion continues.
    • The child will gradually return to normal activities.
  4. Residual Stage (until growth is done)
    • The shape of the head of the femur may continue to change until growth stops.

Your doctor may tell your child to limit impact activities, like jumping and running. Your child may need to use a walker or crutches. This is important if the child has a lot of pain with walking.

Your doctor may also suggest physical therapy to:

  • Stretch muscles that are tight
  • Strengthen muscles around the hip
  • Work on walking to reduce limping

Last Updated 06/2013