Blount disease is a type of growth disorder that affects children and adolescents. This condition causes the portion of the leg below the knee to become bowed in an outward position. Those with Blount disease may experience toes that point inward or have a mild shortening of one of the legs. Treatment may vary from occasional medical observation to the use of supportive devices, such as braces. In some cases, surgical intervention may be needed for those with severe symptoms caused by the disease.
The exact cause of Blount disease is not clearly understood, although it is believed to be related to abnormal development of a portion of the tibia. The tibia is one of the two lower leg bones, and in Blount disease, the inner portion of this bone bows in an outward position, sometimes causing problems with normal activities, such as walking. The toes may be pointed dramatically inward, and a mild shortening of one of the legs may occur.
The first signs of Blount disease are often noticed by a pediatrician at a routine appointment. Slight bowing of the tibia is normal in young children, but if the doctor suspects that the amount of bowing is more significant than average, additional tests may be ordered to confirm the suspected diagnosis. In many cases, the patient is referred to an orthopedic surgeon for further testing.
In addition to an extensive physical examination, x-rays may be ordered to check for bone abnormalities affecting the tibia. These bone changes and abnormalities are more apparent as the child gets older. Measurements may be taken of different angles of the leg in order to confirm the diagnosis of this disorder.
Treatment for Blount disease depends on a number of factors, including the age and health of the child as well as the severity of disability caused by the condition. In some cases, the doctor may elect to carefully monitor the patient to check for bone changes over a period of time. As the child gets a little older, physical therapy or the use of supportive devices, such as crutches or braces, may be used to assist in mobility. Surgical intervention may become necessary in cases of severe disability, although this option is typically reserved for older children who have not responded to less invasive forms of treatment. The surgical procedure usually involves the use of pins, a cast, or an external device that is worn on the outside of the leg, and recovery may take several months.