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Blount's disease

Blount's disease

Blount's disease

Blount’s disease is a condition affecting the growth plate of the tibia, also known as the shin bone. The growth plate does not grow properly and the leg begins to grow with an angular deformity known as bow legs or genu varum.

Types of Blount’s disease

Infantile – This type of Blount’s disease affects toddlers, usually before the age of 4. Seventy percent of infantile diagnoses are in both legs, or bilateral.

Adolescent – Adolescent Blount’s disease affects older children and teens. These types of Blount’s disease generally affect one leg.

Although the cause is unknown, many doctors believe that the weight of the growth plate causes the curvature, or uneven bone growth, and the shin bone, or tibia, does not develop normally, causing the bone to become angled. Blount’s disease is progressive and worsens with growth and should be treated aggressively. Blount’s disease is more prevalent among African-American children and is also associated with obesity and early walking.

Signs of Blount's disease

The symptoms of Blount’s disease are:

  • One or both of the lower legs are turned inward or bowed
  • This bowing or angle is visible just below the knee
  • The symptoms quickly worsen

Diagnosing Blount's disease

Your doctor may suspect Blount’s disease if your child’s legs appear bowed, they are complaining that their knee hurts and the condition seems to be worsening over time, but cannot be linked to a back injury. In this case, your child may be referred to a pediatric orthopaedic doctor. This doctor will perform a complete physical examination of your child and have X-rays of their legs taken.

The doctor will look for abnormal bone growth in the X-rays and take various measurements of your child’s leg to determine the severity of the bowing or angling.

In children under 2, it is sometimes difficult to determine if they have Blount’s disease because there can be age-appropriate bowing that occurs. For these cases, it is important to have close follow-up. Usually when your child is 3, it is easier to determine a more definitive diagnosis.

Treatment of Blount's disease

Treatment of Blount’s disease can involve:

Bracing – Braces are used to treat children under 3 who develop severe bowing.

Surgery – Surgery may be needed if the bowing is not diagnosed until your child is older, or, if braces do not work to correct the bowing. Surgical procedures can be done to place the shin in the proper position and in some cases, lengthen the shin. In other cases, the growth of the outer half of the shin bone can be restricted and surgery can correct this limitation, which allows the child’s natural growth to correct or reverse the bowing.