Severs Disease Therapy

Overview

Severs disease (calcaneal apophysitis) is a self-limiting condition seen in physically active children. Although there is controversy about the radiographic appearance, some reports propose the importance of fragmentation of the secondary nucleus in the diagnosis of Severs disease. We studied secondary nucleus of the calcaneus with ultrasonography. Twenty-one symptomatic heels of 14 children were examined. All these heels showed fragmentation of the secondary nucleus on both conventional radiograph and sonography. Ultrasonographic examination also showed 2 retrocalcaneal bursitis. Our initial data showed that sonography may be valuable in the diagnosis of Severs disease.

Causes

Sever condition is caused by sprain injury where the Achilles tendon attaches to the calcaneus bone at the back of the heel. Sever condition occurs in adolescent or older children, particularly active boys. It can be very painful. It is one of those conditions commonly referred to as "growing pains." Patients are evaluated for signs of conditions that can mimic Sever condition, such as ankylosing spondylitis and other forms of arthritis. Usually Sever condition is self-limited; that is, it disappears as the child ages.

Symptoms

The most prominent symptom of Sever's disease is heel pain which is usually aggravated by physical activity such as walking, running or jumping. The pain is localised to the posterior and plantar side of the heel over the calcaneal apophysis. Sometimes, the pain may be so severe that it may cause limping and interfere with physical performance in sports. External appearance of the heel is almost always normal, and signs of local disease such as edema, erythema (redness) are absent. The main diagnostic tool is pain on medial- lateral compression of the calcaneus in the area of growth plate, so called squeeze test. Foot radiographs are usually normal. Therefore the diagnosis of Sever's disease is primarily clinical.

Diagnosis

Sever?s disease is diagnosed based on a doctor?s physical examination of the lower leg, ankle, and foot. If the diagnosis is in question, the doctor may order x-rays or an MRI to determine if there are other injuries that may be causing the heel pain.

Non Surgical Treatment

Treatment is initially focused on reducing the present pain and limitations and then on preventing recurrence. Limitation of activity (especially running and jumping) usually is necessary. In Micheli and Ireland's study, 84% of 85 patients were able to resume sports activities after 2 months. If the symptoms are not severe enough to warrant limiting sports activities or if the patient and parents are unwilling to miss a critical portion of the sport season, wearing a half-inch inner-shoe heel lift (at all times during ambulation), a monitored stretching program, presport and postsport icing, and judicious use of anti-inflammatory agents normally reduce the symptoms and allow continued participation. If symptoms worsen, activity modification must be included. For severe cases, short-term (2-3 weeks) cast treatment in mild equinus can be used.

Surgical Treatment

The surgeon may select one or more of the following options to treat calcaneal apophysitis. Reduce activity. The child needs to reduce or stop any activity that causes pain. Support the heel. Temporary shoe inserts or custom orthotic devices may provide support for the heel. Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, help reduce the pain and inflammation. Physical therapy. Stretching or physical therapy modalities are sometimes used to promote healing of the inflamed issue. Immobilization. In some severe cases of pediatric heel pain, a cast may be used to promote healing while keeping the foot and ankle totally immobile. Often heel pain in children returns after it has been treated because the heel bone is still growing. Recurrence of heel pain may be a sign of calcaneal apophysitis, or it may indicate a different problem. If your child has a repeat bout of heel pain, be sure to make an appointment with your foot and ankle surgeon.

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