Bow-leggedness (Genu Varum)

What is Bow-leggedness (Genu Varum)?

Bow-leggedness is an outward curvature of the knee that results in  “bowed” legs whose appearance is most obvious between the ages of 12 and 18 months. The condition can occur in one or both knees.

Bow-leggedness is usually caused by:

  • Blount's disease, a problem with development of the growth plate at the inner aspect of the knee
  • Previous infection or injury
  • Rickets

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
  • Usually no pain
  • Worsening deformity with time if left untreated

Surgical treatments may include:

  • A cut in the bone for realignment (osteotomy), which may be necessary for an older adolescent 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 bow-leggedness may be painful.
  • Occasional post-surgery complications include:
    • Compartment syndrome, an increased pressure in a muscle compartment
    • Growth disturbance
    • Infection
    • Recurrence of deformity
  • Untreated bow-leggedness may cause pain on the medial part of the knee and arthritis in adulthood.

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