A slipped epiphysis occurs when the growth plate of the femur slips out of position. It is a condition most common amongst 10-16 year olds and occurs twice as often in boys as in girls. Although associated with obesity, it can also occur in tall, thin individuals.
The onset of an acute slip presents with severe pain. The onset of a chronic slip may cause leg pain and limping. Both are associated with an altered gait. It is very important that a diagnosis is made quickly.
A slipped or slipping epiphysis is often misdiagnosed as a muscle strain as it presents with similar symptoms of pain and limping. However, a clinician faced with an adolescent patient with hip, groin or knee pain should always assume SUFE is the cause until this has been ruled out by way of x ray imaging.
SUFE can be missed on x ray as, in early cases, the signs are very subtle. There is a greater duty of care on the part of the radiologist to have SUFE in mind when looking at the x ray images of an adolescent with a limp and / or pain.
If diagnosed early enough, i.e. before an acute slip occurs, then this can normally be surgically stabilised with the use of a single screw. This type of surgery is relatively simply and recovery back to normal nearly always occurs.
However, if the slip goes undiagnosed and develops into an acute slip then a much more complex operation will be required, the outcome of which is unpredictable. In such instances, premature arthritis at the age of 30-40 is not uncommon.
Further, an undiagnosed slip which becomes unstable is associated with a very serious condition known as Avascular Necrosis (AVN) which affects the blood supply to the hip and can lead to serious permanent disability.
If you or a relative are suffering from SUFE and are unhappy with the treatment you received, contact our specialist clinical negligence team for confidential advice on 0191 5666500 or by completing our contact form.