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Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis



Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) happens when the ball in the hip joint at the end of the thigh bone slips backwards and partly off the bone. It happens in the pre-teen or teen years. Stable SCFE starts slowly and gets worse over time. Unstable SCFE is severe and can be sudden.

The Hip Joint.

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SCFE is caused by pressure on an area of cartilage that allows the bone to grow. This is also known as the growth plate.

Risk Factors

SCFE is more common in boys and children who are 8 to 16 years of age. Other things that raise the risk are:


Symptoms of stable SCFE may be:

  • A limp with or without pain
  • Pain in the groin, hip, thigh, or knee that comes and goes for weeks or months
  • Pain that is worse with activity

Symptoms of unstable SCFE may be:

  • Sudden pain, often after an injury
  • Problems bearing weight on the leg
  • A severe outward turning of the leg
  • An affected leg looks shorter than the unaffected leg


The doctor will ask about the child's symptoms and health history. An exam will be done that focuses on the hip joint and how it moves. This can be enough to make the diagnosis.

Pictures of the hip joint will be taken to confirm the diagnosis. This can be done with x-rays.


The goal of treatment is to stabilize the joint and prevent any further slipping. This is always done with surgery. The surgery that is done depends on whether the SCFE is stable or unstable:

  • Stable SCFE: A metal screw will be put through the bone and across the growth plate to hold it in place until the growth plate closes.
  • Unstable SCFE: The doctor will move the head of the femur back into place. One or two metal screws will be used to hold the bone in place until the growth plate closes.


There are no current guidelines to prevent SCFE.





  • Slipped capital femoral epiphysis. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/slipped-capital-femoral-epiphysis-scfe.
  • Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/slipped-capital-femoral-epiphysis-scfe.
  • Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE). Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/scfe.html.
  • Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/bone-disorders-in-children/slipped-capital-femoral-epiphysis-scfe.


  • Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.