Bone, Joint and Muscle Conditions

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

What Is Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease?

Natural history of early onset LCP disease. These radiographs were taken at age 2, 3, 5, 8 and 15 years. Courtesy of

Natural history of early onset LCP disease.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, often called Perthes disease, is a problem in the hip.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease occurs when blood temporarily stops flowing to the ball (femoral head) at the top of the thighbone that fits into the hip socket. If the bone does not get enough blood, it dies. The bone collapses and become flat. As a result, the ball no longer moves smoothly in the hip socket.

Over the course of several months, the blood supply comes back to the bone. New bone cells gradually replace the dead bone. This process may take 2 or 3 years.

The disease can occur in both hips, but usually not at the same time.

Children with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease may develop arthritis early and lose some movement in their hips.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease in Children

Although any child can get Perthes disease, boys with the disease outnumber girls four to one. Usually, they are thin, wiry, very active boys who are smaller than others their age.

Perthes disease usually develops when children are between the ages of 4 and 8. But children as young as age 2 and as old as age 12 can develop the disease.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease at Seattle Children's

Causes of LCP disease. Courtesy of

Causes of LCP disease.

We have decades of experience treating children with Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease.

Doctors at Seattle Children's developed the Staheli Shelf procedure, a surgical technique used internationally to treat older children with Perthes disease. The procedure is named after the former director of our Department of Orthopedics, Dr. Lynn T. Staheli.

In this operation, doctors add a shelf of bone to the outer part of the socket to deepen it. This way, it can better hold the ball (femoral head) at the top of the thighbone. This helps prevent some of the deformity of the ball that can occur with Perthes disease.