Childhood Obesity Tied to Severe Hip Disorder

By Lisa Rapaport

October 23, 2018

(Reuters Health) - Kids who are obese may be more likely to develop a severe hip disorder known as slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE), a UK study suggests.

The disorder is one of the most common hip problems in children and adolescents. While the condition has long been linked to obesity, research to date hasn't offered decisive evidence that obesity directly causes SCFE.

"SCFE alters the shape of the hip, resulting in bone impingement, and it is 1 of the most common reasons for hip replacement surgery in adolescence and early adulthood," the research team wrote October 22 online in Pediatrics. "It affects 1 in 1300 individuals during childhood, typically requires urgent surgery, and often results in deformity."

For the current study, researchers examined data on weight for more than 597,000 children when they were 5 to 6 years old, with an additional record of weight for nearly 39,500 of these youth at 11 to 12 years old.

Total follow-up among study participants for whom BMI was known in the SCFE risk period (up to age 18) was 4.26 million child-years; the mean follow-up time was 7 years and 1 month.

During that time, 209 children were diagnosed with SCFE.

Compared to kids who were a normal weight at the start of the study, children with severe obesity were almost six times more likely to develop SCFE and youth who were less obese were almost four times more likely to develop SCFE, researchers report in Pediatrics.

And by 11 to 12 years old, youth with severe obesity had 17 times the risk of SCFE that normal weight children had.

"Some doctors, in particular orthopedic surgeons, have long believed that SCFE is linked to childhood obesity, though this has been very difficult to prove," said lead study author Daniel Perry of the University of Liverpool in the UK.

"The strength of this association is striking," Perry said by email.

At the start of the study when kids were about 5.5 years old on average, 12% were overweight and 9.2% were obese. Among the 3,973 children who were obese at that point, 75% remained obese at 11 to 12 years old.

"There are multiple health problems associated with childhood obesity, and we now know that SCFE is one of them," said Dr. Tim Theologis of Oxford University Hospitals in the UK.

"Although this was beyond the scope of this study, it is logical to assume that if obese children were to lose weight, this would reduce their risk of SCFE," Theologis, who wasn't involved in the study, said by email.


Pediatrics 2018.