What is Perthes disease?

MEDICAL DESCRIPTION: (1) Legg-Calvé-Perthes syndrome is a degenerative disease of the hip joint. It is a rare condition of the hip bone that affects only children (4 or 5 per 100,000, usually one hip, but can affect both - bilateral), and is characterized by a temporary loss of blood supply to the hip. The lack of an adequate blood supply causes the head of the femur bone to die, leading to some degree of collapse of the hip joint and to deformity of the ball of the femur, and the surface of the hip socket. There is new bone regrowth after the disease runs its course, but the degree of previous damage to the hip can cause some pain well into adulthood.

(2) It is a chronic inflammatory necrotic bone disease and idiopathic avascular osteonecrosis of the capital femoral epiphysis of the femoral head, coxa plana, caused by an interruption of the blood supply of the head of the femur close to the hip joint, which then leads to chronic pain and imbalance. The disease is typically found in young children (4 out of every 5 cases are boys), and can lead to osteoarthritis in adults.

SHORT DESCRIPTION: Perthes disease is a rare childhood condition that affects the hip when blood supply to the hip bone is disrupted, causing bone cells to die, which erodes the hip and causes pain in the process.

There is no known cause for the disease, and currently, there is still no cure. It is treated in various ways from hip surgeries, fixators, leg braces, petri casts, wheelchairs and walkers. This can be quite devastating to young children as it can cause much pain, both physically and emotionally, from not being able to run, jump or play like most "normal" kids. The uncertainty can also be quite frustrating to parents, as they are often told to "wait and see" how the disease progresses, before most doctors can figure out how to best treat their child's condition. The debilitating effects of Perthes can sometimes continue into adulthood, limiting some physical activities, and can eventually lead to the need of a total hip replacement. 

While Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease is not life threatening, it is certainly life altering, with restricted mobility in a child's daily life as something to be endured, instead of fully enjoyed. The emotional pain from Perthes can be just as overwhelming as the physical. However, our spirited Perthes Kids, are every bit as brave and inspiring as any heroes seen on TV or in the movies. 

"Perthes can't stop me, I can still fly." - Perthes Kid