A few years ago, Jennifer DiNatale noticed her then-six-year-old son, Charles, visibly limping after basketball practice. The painful episodes grew worse with each practice.
An MRI scan revealed Charles had a hip deformity but no firm diagnosis. There were no pediatric orthopedists in their hometown of Wilmington, so the family accepted a referral and drove two hours to Fayetteville.
Charles was diagnosed with Legg Calve-Perthes Disease (LCPD), a degenerative arthritis condition that affects 1 in 1,200 children. The disease is caused by loss of blood flow to the hip joint, causing the head of the femur bone in the upper thigh to erode or collapse into the hip socket.
The disease’s severity is determined by how much of the bone in the femoral head is affected. With Charles it was 100 percent involvement, which greatly decreased his chances for a full recovery. Undeterred, Charles underwent surgery at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center to reshape his femoral head bone, so it could tilt back up into the hip socket better and to promote better growth. A metal plate and screws were then inserted on top of the femoral head to keep it together while it healed for a year.