Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE) | Overview

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We treat children from birth through childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. Our decades of experience following our patients into adulthood have taught us that kids' hip problems affect them as adults. Our goal is to do everything possible so that the hip will do fine for a lifetime.

––Michael B. Millis, MD, professor of orthopedic surgery, Boston Children's Hospital

If your teen or child has been diagnosed with slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE), you’ll have concerns and questions about his treatment, recovery, outlook and other issues. It will comfort you to know that Boston Children's Hospital is a world leader in orthopedic pediatrics. Our orthopedic team specializes in innovative, family-centered care that supports the child and family every step of the way.

Hip illustration

What is slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE)?

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) 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 the more immediate dangerous unstable SCFE.

The majority of children treated for SCFE at Boston Children’s have corrections that enable them to walk, play, grow and live active lives. Treating your child’s 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 his orthopedist until he’s fully grown.

Also, the more severe the case, the greater the chance for his hip motion to become limited, his legs to grow to different lengths and for him to have further hip problems in the future.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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