S Al-Naser, J Judd and N M P Clarke; University Hospital Southampton, Southampton, UK
Femoral head deformity can be a devastating outcome in a small percentage of patients with Perthes' disease. Deformities usually start during the fragmentation stage. In this study, we aimed to determine the effects of Vitamin D deficiency on the natural history of Perthes' disease.
Patients with Perthes' disease and Vitamin D deficiency presenting to our unit in the last 3 years were identified. All X-rays were reviewed retrospectively to determine the duration of the fragmentation and ossification stages. Treatment methods were obtained from the notes. Late presenters (i.e. after fragmentation stage) were excluded.
In our unit, Vitamin D deficiency is diagnosed if levels <72 nmol/L. Fifteen patients (17 hips) with Perthes' disease were found to be Vitamin D deficient. Levels ranged from (18–71 nmol/L). The mean length of the fragmentation stage was 15.7 months which is significantly higher than quoted literature figures (8 months). Ossification stage duration was 18.8 months which was comparable to quoted figures. However, patients with severe Vitamin D deficiency (< 52 nmol/L) were found to have longer ossification stage (20.6 months) compared with patients with mild deficiency (52–72 nmol/L) (16.4 months). Seven out of 16 patients (44%) required surgical containment which is significantly higher than the usually low rates of surgical intervention.
The critical fragmentation stage in Vitamin D deficiency is significantly longer putting the femoral head at higher risk of deformity and extrusion. This leads to higher rates of surgical containment. Also the severity of Vitamin D deficiency might be an important determinant of the period of time required for ossification and healing.
Vitamin D level is an important prognostic factor and must be measured in all patients with Perthes' disease. Prescribing Vitamin D supplements is advisable in this group of patients. However, the effects of these supplements on the course of the disease requires further research.
Level of evidence: III