Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis | Diagnosis

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How is slipped capital femoral epiphysis diagnosed?

At Boston Children's Hospital, we know that the first step to treating your child’s slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) is to form a complete and accurate diagnosis.

Our goal is to diagnose SCFE early in order to prevent the head of the thigh bone from slipping further, and thus preventing hip deformity. If your child receives a diagnosis of SCFE, he or she must avoid putting weight on the hip until after treatment and may be instructed to use crutches or a wheelchair until after receiving treatment.

Your child’s doctor will conduct a physical exam, during which he or she can often feel the ball popping in and out of the socket. The doctor will also take a family history (including any hip problems in your family) and may use diagnostic tests to get detailed images of your child’s hip joint.

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for SCFE may include:

  • X-ray: a diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones and organs onto film. To diagnose SCFE, front and side views are usually needed, as well as views of the opposite knee.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)  
  • bone scan, blood tests (rarely needed)

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