By: Emma Russell

New research hopes to prevent hundreds of children living with Perthes disease from suffering chronic pain.

Every year around 50 Kiwi kids are diagnosed with Perthes, a condition where insufficient blood supply causes cells in the hip joint to die, damaging movement and causing crippling pain.

University student Caiti Brown was diagnosed with Perthes when she was five years old and is now looking at a hip replacement at the age of 22.

This research is sadly too late for Brown but she said it would be life-changing for the future generation of children living with Perthes.

“It would mean that if I have children and they get the disease they wouldn’t have to feel the pain I do every day and they wouldn’t have to rely on high-dose painkillers.”

For the last two and half years, University of Otago Christchurch-based orthopaedic surgeon Dr David Kieser has been working on a treatment that would prevent the progression of Perthes.

Kieser said it would not cure the disease but it could work as a preventative measure for children in the initial stages by stopping the collapse of the femoral head – the highest part of the thigh bone.

“You only have to see one young child with great ambition who then subsequently at the age of 16 has already undergone several operations and now needs their first hip replacement, that’s enough to drive you to help people,” said Kieser.

The treatment has been tested on piglets as a pre-trial model and Kieser’s team hopes to launch a clinical trial some time next year.

Kieser said children can get an injection in the hip when they are first diagnosed to open up the blood supply and stop the disease from progressing.

Unfortunately Brown doesn’t have that option.

After nine invasive surgeries, two full body casts and one leg cast, her condition has progressed into arthritis. All the cartilage in her left hip has gone, leaving bone on bone.

“It’s sore when I wake up and it’s sore when I go to sleep, so I don’t really get a break from it,” said Brown.

As her condition is severe, Brown is now looking at getting a hip replacement, which would give her movement back and alleviate some pain, but it is a high-risk procedure.

Kieser said it is an operation they tried to avoid in young people as eventually the hip wears out and another replacement is needed.

The more the hip has to be replaced, the poorer the outcome.

Despite it all, Brown doesn’t let her condition dictate her life. In fact, she said Perthes’ has made her who she is today.

The Victoria University student is studying biomedical science and psychology. She hopes one day to get stuck into research like Kieser’s, with the intention of making a difference in young peoples’ lives.

On September 28 it’s Cure Kids Red Nose Day and funds will be raised for vital child health research such as Kiesers’.

Source: NZ Herald

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