Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis
What is slipped capital femoral epiphysis?Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) is a condition of the hip joint that affects children. In SCFE, the head, or "ball," of the thigh bone (referred to as the femoral head) slips off the neck of the thigh bone. An analogy commonly used to describe this condition is that it can be like a scoop of ice cream slipping off the top of a cone. This condition causes the hip joint to become painful and stiff.
SCFE has three degrees of severity:
- mild - approximately one-third of the femoral head slips off of the thigh bone (See A.)
- moderate - approximately one-third to one-half of the femoral head slips off of the thigh bone (See B.)
- severe - more than one-half of the femoral head slips off of the thigh bone (See C.)
What causes slipped capital femoral epiphysis?The cause of SCFE is unknown. Risk factors that increase the likelihood of SCFE include the following:
Risk factors may include:
- medications (such as steroids)
- thyroid problems
- radiation treatment
- bone problems related to kidney disease
Who is affected by slipped capital femoral epiphysis?SCFE is an unusual condition which is more likely to occur in boys than girls. Children ages 10 to 16 years are most at risk.
SCFE is more prevalent in the northeast region of the United States than in the southwestern states. It is also more prevalent among African-Americans. In many cases, the adolescent is overweight.
What are the symptoms of slipped capital femoral epiphysis?Symptoms of SCFE typically include complaints of pain in the hip that is aggravated by activity. Sometimes the adolescent will also experience pain in the groin, thigh, or knee area.
In acute slips, the adolescent will complain of immediate pain, limp, or feel like the "leg is giving way."
The adolescent with a chronic slip usually walks with a limp, complains of hip pain, and reports that rest alleviates the pain. The adolescent may walk with his/her leg turned outward and may also have a click in the hip.
The symptoms of SCFE may resemble other conditions or medical problems of the hip. Always consult your adolescent's physician for a diagnosis.
How is slipped capital femoral epiphysis diagnosed?In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for SCFE may include:
- x-ray - a diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
- bone scans - a nuclear imaging method to evaluate any degenerative and/or arthritic changes in the joints; to detect bone diseases and tumors; to determine the cause of bone pain or inflammation.
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
- blood tests
Treatment of slipped capital femoral epiphysis:Specific treatment for SCFE will be determined by your adolescent's physician based on:
- your adolescent's age, overall health, and medical history
- the extent of the condition
- your adolescent's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the course of the condition
- your opinion or preference
- surgery (involving the use of a steel pin to hold the femoral head onto the femur to prevent it from slipping further)
- physical therapy (following surgery, to help strengthen the hip and leg muscles)
Long-term outlook for an adolescent with slipped capital femoral epiphysis:The more severe the case, the greater the likelihood the adolescent will experience limited hip motion, differences in leg lengths, and further hip problems in adulthood. However, with early detection and proper treatment, a good outcome with few problems is possible.
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