Question:When I was a child, I had a hip problem called Perthes disease. As an adult, sometimes I have hip pain but not always. Should I do anything special to keep this from getting worse?
Answer:The natural history and long-term results of Perthes disease (also known as Legg-CalvÃ©-Perthes) are still largely unknown. Some studies following children with this condition into their later years have been done. Our current treatment for this condition is based on the results of those studies.
We know that the duration of the disease from start to complete healing depends on the extent and severity of the condition. As you might expect, the children with the greatest amount of damage to the growth plate have the worst results.
Age makes a difference, too. Younger children (less than six years old) with Perthes tend to have milder deformity compared with older children (10 years old or older).
One study from the University of Iowa showed that patients treated with range of motion programs had better motion and function at age 45. But 10 years later, there was significant deterioration of the hip. By the time these patients were 55 years old, 40 per cent of the group had a total hip replacement. And another 10 per cent had enough pain and arthritis to need a joint replacement, too.
Individuals who receive physical therapy do show improvement in hip motion and strength. Whether or not lifelong exercise makes a difference has not been studied.
It might be a good idea to see an orthopedic surgeon. An X-ray can show the current condition of your hip. A physical therapy exam can establish your levels of motion and strength. Any other loss of function or disability can be addressed with a specific rehab program.
Regular follow-up visits with both the surgeon and the therapist may help identify any developing problems and nip them in the bud.Stephanie P. Adam, MD, and Vishwas R. Talwalkar, MD. Legg-CalvÃ©-Perthes Disease. In Current Opinion in Orthopaedics. November 2007. Vol. 18. No. 6. Pp. 544-549.
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