Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE)


Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) is a disorder in which the femoral head (ball of the thigh bone) slips off the neck of the femur (thigh bone) though the growth plate. This may occur suddenly (acute) or over a long period of time (chronic).

Causes & Risk Factors

Although the exact cause is not known, there are many factors that may be involved in the development of SCFE. During rapid growth, the growth plate may be weakened. Hormonal changes during rapid growth may cause the growth plate to become weakened. Injuries may also cause the disorder.

Who can get SCFE?

  • More common in boys than girls
  • More common in African-Americans
  • Happens more often in overweight or obese children
  • Usually occurs between the ages of 11 and 15 years
  • May occur in both hips
  • May occur in children with endocrine issues

Symptoms & Types

Symptoms can include:

  • Pain in groin area, thigh, or knee (pain may not occur in the hip)
  • Limping
  • Problems walking
  • Hip stiffness

Types include:

  • Acute (sudden) slip may have sudden onset of pain and unable to walk
  • Chronic (over a longer period of time) slip may have dull pain felt in the groin, thigh, and/or knee

Diagnosis & Tests

A physical exam and X-rays are usually necessary to diagnose SCFE. Occasionally, CT or MRI scans may also be ordered..

Treatment & Care

Treatment will begin immediately to try to prevent the SCFE from getting worse. Your child will be admitted into the hospital and put in bed.

The most common treatment is surgery. In surgery the doctor will put 1 or 2 screws into the ball of the thigh bone. This will help hold the bone in place and prevent further slipping. It is very important that your child not walk on the leg with SCFE before undergoing surgery.

Living & Managing

Most patients who are successfully treated for SCFE do very well. Some children may be at risk to develop hip arthritis later in life. It is recommended that children with SCFE continue to see their doctor even after they have healed from their surgery. Additional surgeries may be recommended to prevent hip arthritis later in life.