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Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis

Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis

Alternate Names

  • SCFE


A slipped capital femoral epiphysis, or SCFE, is a slipping and displacement of the growing end of the femur (thighbone) in the hip socket. This condition usually occurs in growing adolescents.

What is going on in the body?

The epiphysis is the end of the bone where growth occurs. During childhood, this area is growing until the bones reach maturity during the teenage years. It is therefore the weakest part of the bone and may slip off the neck of the thighbone if placed under great stress. The slip may occur suddenly or gradually.


What are the causes and risks of the condition?

SCFE is seen most commonly in children age 10 to 16, is more common in blacks than whites, and more common in boys than girls.
Other risk factors include:
  • a decreased level of certain hormones in the body
  • a family history of the condition
  • obesity
  • trauma to the hip area
If an individual has experienced SCFE of one hip, he or she is at high risk of having it happen on the other side as well.


What can be done to prevent the condition?

Weight management can help prevent some cases of SCFE. Sports safety guidelines should be followed for adults, adolescents, and children. In most cases, little can be done to prevent this problem.


How is the condition diagnosed?

Diagnosis of SCFE begins with a history and physical exam. The diagnosis is confirmed by a joint X-ray of the hip. Early diagnosis and treatment usually results in a better outcome.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the condition?

If left untreated, a mild slip may progress to a more severe one. A significant slip can lead to joint deformity and arthritis in adult years.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

SCFE is not contagious, and poses no risk to others.


What are the treatments for the condition?

Immediate treatment is used for most slips that cause sudden symptoms. Initial treatment usually consists of the use of crutches with no weight bearing on that leg. Surgery is then usually performed to correct the slippage. An orthopedic surgeon, or bone specialist, generally performs the surgery. Surgery may involve placing a metal pin through the skin and into the hip's growth plate.
If the slipping is more severe, the hip area may need to be cut open. In this procedure, the epiphysis can be put back in its proper place on the end of the bone. In some cases, the condition happened some time previously and has healed in the slipped position. In this setting, treatment often consists of observation alone. For a severe slip, an operation may be needed to realign the hip.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

If not treated promptly, the slip may progress. Death of the bone cells in the epiphysis is a rare problem. Surgery can be complicated by bleeding, infection, or reactions to anesthesia. Rarely, the cartilage in the hip joint may dissolve, causing arthritis in an adolescent. There is also potential for arthritis as an adult.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

After surgery, a person should avoid vigorous sports or other activities until healing is complete. This usually takes a few weeks. The individual may need to use crutches for several weeks. In severe cases, a cast may be needed for several weeks, and the person is unable to walk until the cast is removed. After the growth area has fused, or become solid, the hip is strong. The person may be fully active unless he or she is limited by arthritis symptoms.


How is the condition monitored?

After complete and proper treatment, no further monitoring may be needed on the affected side. However, it is important to pay particular attention to symptoms or signs in the opposite hip. Joint X-rays can be taken to ensure that a similar problem does not exist. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professionial.

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