Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare has one of the country’s largest groups of pediatric orthopedic specialists. We provide thorough evaluations and comprehensive treatments for Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (or Perthes disease). Our in-depth knowledge, offered in a family-centered environment, helps patients successfully heal and prevent damage to the hip bone.

Why Choose Gillette?

  • Gillette is nationally and internationally recognized as a leader in pediatric orthopedics.
  • Our skilled pediatric orthopedic surgeons and pediatric nurse practitioners are experts in diagnosing and treating Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease.
  • Our coordinated approach lets patients see a team of specialists during a single visit, at one location.
  • Our goal is to help patients heal and prevent damage to the hip bone.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease Definition

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease is a condition in which the supply of blood to the hip bone (femoral head) is temporarily interrupted, causing the hip bone to deteriorate. Gradually, the old bone dissolves and new bone grows in its place. This process typically occurs over a period of two years or more.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease Cause and Symptoms

The cause of the condition and of the interruption of blood-supply to the bone is not known. Some of the most common symptoms experienced by children who have Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease are:

  • Limping
  • Pain in the groin area, hip, inner thigh or knee
  • Some limitation of hip motion
  • Weakness in the thigh muscle

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease Incidence and Risk Factors

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease usually occurs in children from 4 to 8, but  it can occur within the age range of 2 to 14. The disease often develops in children who are very physically active and small in size for their age. In 10 to 15 percent of cases, both hips are affected, typically at different times. In most cases, however, the condition only occurs in one hip. Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease is rare. The condition affects one of every 740 boys and one of every 3,700 girls in North America.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease Tests and Treatments

Depending on a child’s age and condition, medical specialists might recommend a combination of tests and treatments. A diagnosis of Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease typically requires X-rays, or, in some cases, an MRI of the hip. At Gillette, we monitor a child’s progress with regular physical exams and X-rays, particularly during the first one to two years after diagnosis. Sometimes we use a special X-ray, called an arthrography, to evaluate the surface of the hip bone. An arthrography differs from a standard X-ray in that a special dye injected into the hip joint produces a more detailed image.

The main goals of treatment are:

  • To keep the child as comfortable as possible.
  • To maintain adequate range of motion of the hip.
  • To keep the ball of the hip within the hip socket during the healing process.

If a child is younger than 4 or if the disease only affects a small portion of the hip bone, treatment might not be necessary and we might only need to observe the child. In some cases, we recommend physical therapy, pain medication and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Sometimes we’ll suggest modifying a child’s activities. For example, we might advise avoiding high-impact activities, such as jumping, to protect the hip and avoid further injury to an already weakened bone. 


Surgery is sometimes needed to release tight muscles or to reposition the bones of the hip joint.


In some cases, a child might need to wear a brace for a short time following surgery to maintain range of motion and promote healing.

Additional Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease Services

Once a child’s hip has healed completely, the disease is unlikely to return. Gillette specialists will monitor for signs of the disease in both hip joints throughout a child’s treatment. Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease affects only the hip joints, so children won’t develop the condition in other joints.

Children who have Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease might also benefit from these Gillette specialties and services:

For more information about the care we offer at Gillette, search Conditions and Care.

Publications and Resources

International Perthes Study Group (IPSG)

The ISPG's goal is to advance knowledge and care for children who have Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease. They seek to provide current, objective information to patients and their families. Gillette currently has two representatives in the IPSG.

Related Research

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

Gillette's Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease studies evaluate potential risk factors for poor outcomes, assess treatment-related outcomes, and will help shape care standards for children who have Legg-Calvé-Perthes for decades to come. Learn about select ongoing Legg-Calvé-Perthes studies at Gillette.

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