Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) happens when the ball in the hip joint at the end of the thigh bone slips backwards and partly off the bone. It happens in the pre-teen or teen years. Stable SCFE starts slowly and gets worse over time. Unstable SCFE is severe and can be sudden.
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SCFE is caused by pressure on an area of cartilage that allows the bone to grow, known as the growth plate.
SCFE is more common in boys and children who are aged 8 to 16 years. Other things that raise the risk are:
Symptoms of stable SCFE may be:
- A limp with or without pain
- Pain in the groin, hip, thigh, or knee that comes and goes for weeks or months
- Pain that is worse with activity
Symptoms of unstable SCFE may be:
- Sudden pain, often after an injury
- Problems bearing weight on the leg
- A severe outward turning of the leg
- The leg looks shorter than the healthy leg
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and health history. An exam will be done that focuses on the hip joint and how it moves. This can be enough to make the diagnosis.
Images of the hip joint will be taken to confirm the diagnosis. This can be done with x-rays.
A wheelchair or crutches will be used to keep weight off of the hip joint. More treatment will be given by a doctor who treats bones.
The goal of treatment is to stabilize the joint and prevent any further slipping. This is always done with surgery. The surgery that is done depends on whether the SCFE is stable or unstable:
- Stable SCFE: A metal screw will be put through the bone and across the growth plate to hold it in place until the growth plate closes.
- Unstable SCFE: The doctor will move the head of the femur back into place. One or two metal screws will be used to hold the bone in place until the growth plate closes.
There are no methods to prevent SCFE.
Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Georgiadis AG, Zaltz I. Slipped capital femoral epiphysis: how to evaluate with a review and update of treatment. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2014 Dec;61(6):1119-1135.
Slipped capital femoral epiphysis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00052. Updated June 2016. Accessed September 30, 2019.
Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/slipped-capital-femoral-epiphysis-scfe. Updated July 27, 2017. Accessed September 30, 2019.
Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE). Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/scfe.html. Updated September 2016. Accessed September 30, 2019.
Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/bone-disorders-in-children/slipped-capital-femoral-epiphysis-scfe. Updated March 2019. Accessed September 30, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 4/24/2020