OCT 31, 2018 6:10 AM PDT

Childhood Obesity Raises Risk of Severe Hip Malformation

Obesity, especially in childhood can create a myriad of health issues that can persist into adulthood. Cardiovascular disease, strokes, hypertension and even some forms of cancer can be traced back to obesity. A new study from the UK suggests that childhood obesity can also increase the risk of a hip deformity that often presents in teenagers.

The hip disease is called Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis (SCFE) impacts in every 2,000 children. It typically begins in adolescence and can be triggered by a growth spurt. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint, with the rounded head of the femur that fits into the acetabulum socket of the pelvis. Long bones grow at the ends, where growth plates increase the length. SCFE happens when the growth of the femoral head goes a little offline and starts to slip down off the neck of the bone at the growth plate. Since the bone isn't fully developed at this point, it's weaker and causes pain and sometimes an inability to bear weight on the joint. If it's caught early enough, surgery can be done to stop the slippage. A screw is inserted diagonally across the growth plate to stabilize the joint and prevent further deformity.

The study, conducted by doctors at the University of Liverpool, the University of Oxford and the University of Aberdeen, along with colleagues at the Alder Hey Children's Hospital. The data was obtained from the health records of public school children in Scotland where measurements of body mass index (BMI) are taken yearly as part of school health screenings. Approximately 600,000 children were included in the cohort. Since the group was so large and included BMI measurements from a range of ages, the researchers have a high degree of confidence in their findings.

So what did they come up with? After crunching the numbers, the team found that those children who were obese at five years old had a 75% likelihood of remaining obese when they were 12 years old. In addition, children who were overweight at 5 had almost 20 times the risk of developing SCFE than children who were at an average weight. The chances of developing SCFE increased along with the BMI of the children. Essentially, the higher the BMI, the higher the risk of SCFE.

Daniel Perry is the lead author of the study and a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Alder Hey Hospital He explained "Surgeons have long suspected that childhood obesity was the cause of this disease, and these results make it very clear. It is important that doctors who treat children are aware of SCFE, especially amongst children with obesity. Identifying SCFE early means children typically only need relatively simple surgery, however children identified later often require high-risk reconstructive surgery." The study is published in the October 22, 2018 issue of the journal Pediatrics. The video below chronicles one young patient who underwent SCFE surgery, check out her story.

Sources: University of Liverpool, Pediatrics, OrthoInfo

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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