Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis in Children

What is slipped capital femoral epiphysis in children?

Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) is a condition of the hip joint that affects children. In SCFE, the ball of the thighbone (femoral head) slips off the neck of the thighbone. SCFE is often described as being like a scoop of ice cream slipping off the top of a cone. Up to 2 in 5 cases affect both hips.

What causes SCFE in a child?

The cause of SCFE is not known. It can occur suddenly after an injury, such as a fall. But it most often happens over a long period of time. SCFE tends to develop during short periods of rapid growth after the start of puberty.

Which children are at risk for SCFE?

SCFE is an unusual condition that is more likely to happen in children who are 10 to 16 years old. Other risk factors that increase the chance of SCFE are:

  • Obesity
  • Medicines such as steroids
  • Thyroid problems
  • Radiation treatment
  • Bone problems linked to kidney disease

What are the symptoms of SCFE in a child?

Children with SCFE may have:

  • Pain in the hip that gets worse with activity
  • A limp
  • Pain in the groin, thigh, or knee
  • An outward-turned leg when they walk

These symptoms may start suddenly or develop over time. They may seem like other health problems of the hip. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is SCFE diagnosed in a child?

Your child’s healthcare provider will be able to diagnose SCFE after reviewing his or her health history and doing a physical exam. Your child may also need X-rays.

An early diagnosis of SCFE is important to help prevent a hip deformity. Once diagnosed with SCFE, your child may be told not to bear weight on the hip. He or she may need crutches or a wheelchair.

How is SCFE treated in a child?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

The goal of treatment is to prevent the femoral head from slipping further off the thighbone. Treatment may include:

  • Surgery. This treatment may involve the use of a steel pin or screw to hold the femoral head onto the thighbone to stop it from slipping further.
  • Physical therapy. After surgery, physical therapy can help build up the hip and leg muscles.

Children with severe cases of SCFE are more likely to have limited hip motion, differences in leg lengths, and other hip problems in adulthood. But with early detection and proper treatment, a good outcome with few problems is possible.

Online Medical Reviewer: Thomas N Joseph MD

Online Medical Reviewer: Kenny Turley PA-C

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN

Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2019

© 2000-2019 StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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