Bowlegs | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is bowlegs diagnosed?

Bowlegs are obvious when a child stands with legs straight and toes pointed forward. Your child's physician can determine the severity of bowlegs by observing the position of a child's legs, knees, and ankles and by measuring the distance between the knees. The doctor will also want to observe your child while walking, both coming and going, to assess the degree of internal rotation.

To document the positioning of the bowlegs and to look for any underlying bone deformities, your child's doctor may recommend x-ray films of the knees. During infancy, however, there is no clear distinction between Blount's disease and natural bowing. If your child is under 15 months of age, the x-ray can document the degree and location of bowing, but cannot be used to distinguish natural bowing from Blount's disease until the baby is older.

Treatments for bowlegs in children

Specific treatment for bowlegs will be determined by your child's physician based on:

  • your child's age, overall health, and medical history
  • the extent of the condition
  • the cause of the condition
  • your baby's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Depending on your child's age, the doctor will probably advise delaying treatment of bowlegs to give leg bones a chance to straighten naturally.

If bowing of the legs does not correct itself, or increases after a child has been walking for some time, a physician may recommend corrective appliances.

  • Night braces help to pull the legs slowly into a straighter position.
  • Bowlegs caused by an underlying disease cannot be corrected completely until the disease itself is treated.
  • A child usually wears a corrective brace during part of the treatment of the disease.
  • If bowing is severe, your child's doctor may recommend an osteotomy, an operation on the upper part of the shinbone that would correct the lower limb alignment.

Treatment of Blount's disease usually involves a combination of non-operative measures that include wearing a special brace and osteotomy. This brace, known as a modified knee-ankle-foot orthosis (KAFO), is designed to prevent knee flexion and must be worn day and night (23 hours a day). This brace works by releasing the compression forces in the area of the knee to allow the resumption of normal growth. Young children with the disease may not need surgery if the brace alone corrects the problem.

Rickets can be corrected by adding vitamin D and calcium to the diet.