Stories

Conditions we treat: Knock knees

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This blog is part of an ongoing series looking to explain the common conditions CURE treats in ways that all of us non-medical folk can understand. 

Knock knees is a condition commonly treated at CURE Children’s Hospitals. This condition causes a child’s legs to angle inwards to the point where their knees literally knock against each other as they walk. The continual knee bumping is painful in itself, and the odd angles the legs are forced into puts strain on the child’s joints. It is a miserable experience. It’s also heartbreakingly common to hear stories of children like Abebe, with knock knees, who never even had the chance to start school because of the pain of walking there every day.

Interestingly enough, knock knees are actually a natural part of a child’s development. All children go through a progression of bowlegs to knock knees and then their legs straighten out permanently between the ages of six and eleven. When the angles are extreme, the knocking affects just one leg, or the child is older, problems begin to arise. These problems can be caused by a variety of reasons like spina bifida, bone diseases from lack of proper nutrients, or even bones or joints just not lining up properly.

Regardless of the reason, knock knees are a very treatable condition. Generally, they are straightened out in one of two ways:

1. Guided Growth: Since there are two bones in the leg between our knee and our ankle, doctors install a small plate on the knee which slows down the growth of one of the bones while allowing the other bone to grow normally. Since one bone is growing faster than the other, the different growth speeds slowly change the angle of the child’s leg. This procedure is incredible! It’s a very small surgery, and the child can be walking the day after the procedure. It’s really just giving the child’s body a little help to heal itself.

2. Osteotomy: In situations where guided growth isn’t an option, doctors will perform a larger surgery, called an osteotomy, to straighten out the child’s legs. For this procedure, they remove a triangular portion of one of the leg bones. With this triangle of bone gone, the doctors have enough space to manually straighten out the bone and, as a result, the entire leg!

Whether the child undergoes a guided growth procedure or an osteotomy, your support of CURE is changing the lives of children who have, for too long, suffered from knock knees. Children like Meriyem, whose mother dreamed that Meriyem would be able to run and play with her friends – something she would never have been able to do if it wasn’t for your support!

One of the beautiful things about CURE is that it allows everyone to participate in the life-transforming surgeries that are provided daily at the CURE hospitals all around the world. You don’t need to be able to understand words like bilateral, ventricle, genu valgum, congenital, or cerebral-spinal fluid to take part in the life-changing and life-saving work that is done. But with this said, having an understanding of the conditions CURE treats does allow a deeper appreciation of just how important the work your donation is enabling the CURE staff to do!

About The Author

Joel Witwer

My title says that I'm the Lead Storyteller, previously Storyteller for Niger, previously CUREkids Coordinator in Zambia. All this really means is I hang out with kids and sometimes take photos. I love these kids; thus, I love my job. My goal is to translate this love into pixels and words so that you can fall in love as well!

Read more about Joel