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We undertook a retrospective comparative study of all patients with an unstable slipped capital femoral epiphysis presenting to a single centre between 1998 and 2011. There were 45 patients (46 hips; mean age 12.6 years; 9 to 14); 16 hips underwent intracapsular cuneiform osteotomy and 30 underwent pinning in situ, with varying degrees of serendipitous reduction. No patient in the osteotomy group was lost to follow-up, which was undertaken at a mean of 28 months (11 to 48); four patients in the pinning in situ group were lost to follow-up, which occurred at a mean of 30 months (10 to 50). Avascular necrosis (AVN) occurred in four hips (25%) following osteotomy and in 11 (42%) following pinning in situ. AVN was not seen in five hips for which osteotomy was undertaken > 13 days after presentation. AVN occurred in four of ten (40%) hips undergoing emergency pinning in situ, compared with four of 15 (47%) undergoing non-emergency pinning. The rate of AVN was 67% (four of six) in those undergoing pinning on the second or third day after presentation.Pinning in situ following complete reduction led to AVN in four out of five cases (80%). In comparison, pinning in situ following incomplete reduction led to AVN in 7 of 21 cases (33%). The rate of development of AVN was significantly higher following pinning in situ with complete reduction than following intracapsular osteotomy (p = 0.048). Complete reduction was more frequent in those treated by emergency pinning and was strongly associated with AVN (p = 0.005).Non-emergency intracapsular osteotomy may have a protective effect on the epiphyseal vasculature and should be undertaken with a delay of at least two weeks. The place of emergency pinning in situ in these patients needs to be re-evaluated, possibly in favour of an emergency open procedure or delayed intracapsular osteotomy. Non-emergency pinning in situ should be undertaken after a delay of at least five days, with the greatest risk at two and three days after presentation. Intracapsular osteotomy should be undertaken after a delay of at least 14 days. In our experience, closed epiphyseal reduction is harmful.Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2015;97-B:412–19.

Original publication




Journal article


The bone & joint journal


British Editorial Society of Bone & Joint Surgery

Publication Date





412 - 419