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Did your child suddenly develop a limp or find themselves unable to walk at all? Transient synovitis of the hip may be the cause.

We'd enjoyed a "slumber party", watching a film on my laptop in "the big bed", and my 10 year old daughter fell asleep just before the end. Not wanting to wake her, I let her be. The following morning, I woke up to quiet crying. My daughter. "What's wrong?", I asked. She replied, whimpering: "My leg hurts."

That was weird. She had suffered with "growing pains" before, but I knew that they always came at night, and that leg pain in the morning was cause for concern. It didn't end there, though — when she tried to get up, she found she couldn't walk. Pointing to where the pain was, she signalled an area from her knee all the way to her hip.

This was serious. A freak-out moment for both of us. Truly concerned, I called the doctor. Our pediatrician, based on the symptoms I described, suggested we see an orthopedic specialist instead of him. We did, and that specialist suggested an immediate x-ray after an initial physical examination, but wasn't too concerned.

When your child suddenly finds themselves in pain and unable to walk, that's pretty scary! The potential diagnoses Google brings up when you search "acute pediatric leg pain" are even more so. That's why I'm sharing our experience today — what actually happened to my daughter was something not many people would immediately think of.

What Is Transient Synovitis Of The Hip?

"I thought this is what she had," the orthopedic specialist told me after consulting his colleagues about my daughter's hip x-ray. "The way her hip moved suggested this, but I had to do an x-ray to be sure, because this condition is much more common in boys than in girls," he added.

She was diagnosed with transient synovitis of the hip, an inflammatory condition that causes the tissues around the hip joint to swell, leading to pain and impaired mobility. Only one side is usually affected, and children aged between three and 10 years old are most commonly struck by the condition. Besides restricted movement in the relevant hip joint and pain radiating out towards the thigh and even the knee, it can also cause a mildly raised temperature.

Transient synovitis can have a very sudden onset, or it can develop gradually. It can cause the affected child to walk with a limp or to refuse to walk at all, as happened with my daughter.

X-rays, physical examinations, and blood tests to rule out other conditions are involved in the diagnostic process.

What Causes Transient Synovitis Of The Hip?

Interestingly enough, our orthopedic specialist asked both whether my daughter had suffered a viral infection recently (she had) and whether she'd recently lost a milk tooth (she had, the night before she woke up in pain). That's because of the (as yet scientifically unsupported) theory that synovitis can occur as a complication of both these events. She had also been to sports practice the night before, another possible cause.

In short, though the exact cause of transient synovitis of the hip hasn't yet been determined, what we do know is that it develops when the synovial membrane, the tissue around the hip joint, becomes inflamed — something the x-ray also clearly showed.

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