Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE)

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What is slipped capital femoral epiphysis?

Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) is one of the most common developmental conditions of the hip joint; it usually affects teens and pre-teens. In SCFE, a weakness of the growth plate (physis, the area at the end of the bone responsible for bone growth) in the upper end of the thigh bone (femur) causes the head, or "ball," of the thigh bone (femoral head, epiphysis) to slip off the neck of the thigh bone, much as a scoop of ice cream can slip off the top of a cone.

A SCFE is actually a fracture of the growth plate. The fracture is usually a fairly stable one, and the slippage occurs very slowly. Occasionally, the gradual slippage can become very unstable and the ball can completely slip, leading to severe deformity and even blood supply problems to the “ball.” For this reason, every hip with SCFE should be treated immediately to prevent unstable SCFE.

Care for slipped capital femoral epiphysis

The majority of children treated for SCFE at Boston Children’s Hospital have corrections that enable them to walk, play, grow and live active lives. Treating SCFE as soon as symptoms develop greatly increases the likelihood of a successful outcome. However, since a significant percentage of children with SCFE in one hip will eventually develop the condition in the other hip, your child should continue to be followed by an orthopedist until fully grown.

If your teen or child has been diagnosed with slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE), you’ll have concerns and questions about treatment, recovery, outlook and other issues. Boston Children's is a world leader in orthopedic pediatrics and ranked #1 in Orthopedics by U.S. News & World Report in 2016-17. Our team of child and young adult hip specialists provide innovative, family-centered care that supports the child and family every step of the way.

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