What is Perthes Disease?

What is Perthes Disease?

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, also known as Perthes disease, is a rare childhood condition that involves the deterioration of the femoral head, the ball at the top of the thigh bone, due to a disruption in blood flow. As a result, the femoral head may collapse, and the hip joint may become painful and stiff.

Children with Perthes disease will often walk with a limp. Over time, the blood flow returns, and the femoral head heals. However, if the femoral head is no longer round, it will not move smoothly in the socket and will become arthritic.

The direct cause of Perthes disease is unknown but typically affects children ranging from 3 to 11 years of age, particularly boys. It usually affects only one hip, but in rare instances, the other side may also be affected.

Signs & Symptoms of Perthes Disease


Early signs of Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease may appear in the form of a limp or a change in how a child runs or walks. Although it may go unnoticed by the affected child, it can be observed when your child is active or at play.

Common Perthes disease symptoms include:

  • Limping
  • Stiffness and pain around the knee, thigh, groin, or hip
  • Reduction in range of motion at the hip joint
  • Decrease in the length of the affected leg
  • Thinning or atrophy of thigh muscles

The pain a child experiences may not be consistent and can occur on and off over several months. Contact a healthcare provider if your child exhibits symptoms, as X-rays may be necessary to detect and diagnose Perthes disease.

What Causes Perthes Disease?


Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease begin when blood flow disruption deprives cells of oxygen, causing them to die and the bone to weaken. This results in the fragmentation of the femoral head. When the blood supply is restored, the body regenerates cells over several months or years, and the bone will heal.

The direct cause of Perthes disease remains unclear. Theories include trauma or damage to blood vessels and blood-clotting disorders that disrupt blood flow. Studies also suggest that Perthes disease may be inherited genetically.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease is rare, affecting less than 1% of the population. However, it is five times more common in boys than in girls. It often affects active children, and it is more common in individuals of Asian and European descent.

Studies have shown that children whose parents were diagnosed with Perthes disease are more likely to have the condition. Exposure to second-hand smoke may also increase the likelihood of a child’s developing Perthes disease, though the reasons are unknown.

Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Perthes Disease Care

Pediatric surgeons at NewYork-Presbyterian Columbia Orthopedics can guide and provide care in diagnosing and treating Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease. Our experts can confirm a diagnosis using an X-ray and will perform regular tests to track progression and recovery. Early diagnosis will allow more time for the femoral head to heal and recover.