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Bow Legged Knee (Genu Varum)

  • What is bow legged knee?

    Bowing of the knee is an outward curvature of the knee that results in bowed legs, whereby the knees do not touch when standing. Its appearance is most obvious between the ages of 12 – 18 months and can occur in one or both knees.

  • Bowing of the knee is usually caused by:

    • Blount's disease (problems with development of the growth plate on the inner side of the knee)
    • Previous infection or injury
    • Rickets (softening/weakening of bones in children)

    The condition may develop spontaneously in an overweight adolescent who previously had straight legs.

  • Symptoms include:

    • An obvious gap between the knees when standing with the feet together
    • Worsening deformity with time if left untreated
    • There is usually no pain
  • Surgical treatments include:

    • A cut in the bone for realignment (osteotomy). It may be necessary for an older teenager who has stopped growing
    • Temporary tether of the normal outer growth plate at the knee in a younger child or a permanent tether in an older child
    • Adolescent bowing of the knee may be painful
    • Complications occasionally seen after surgery include:
      1. Compartment syndrome (increased pressure in a muscle compartment)
      2. Growth disturbance
      3. Infection
      4. Recurrence of deformity
    • Untreated bowing of the knee may cause pain on the medial (inner) part of the knee and arthritis during adulthood
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