Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis

Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) is an unusual disorder of the hip where the ball at the upper end of the thigh bone (femur) slips in a backward direction. This is caused due to weakness of the growth plate. This condition is commonly caused during accelerated growth periods such as the onset of puberty.

Causes

The cause of SCFE is unknown. However, in most cases it may be due to being overweight or from minor falls or trauma. Slippage of the epiphysis (ball at the upper and of the thigh bone) is a gradual and slow process, however it may occur suddenly in cases of trauma or falls.

Symptoms

The typical symptoms of SCFE include several weeks or months of hip or knee pain and limping. The affected leg may be turned outwards in comparison to the normal leg and may appear shorter.

Diagnosis

SCFE is usually diagnosed with a physical examination, as it shows any abnormality in motion of the hip, gait and walking pattern. An X-ray of the hip will confirm the diagnosis as it shows any anatomical differences in the alignment of the hip bone.

Treatment

Early diagnosis of SCFE gives a chance to achieve the treatment goal of stabilizing the hip. The treatment is mostly in the form of surgery which prevents any additional slipping of the femoral head until growth stops. Depending on the severity of the condition, your doctor will recommend one of these 3 surgical procedures:

  • Placing a single screw in the thigh bone and the epiphysis
  • Reducing the displacement of the femoral head and placing screws to hold it in place.
  • Removing the abnormal growth plate and avoiding any further displacement with the help of screws.

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