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Bowlegs: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Surgery

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Bowed legs in a toddler is very common. When a child with bowed legs stands with his or her feet together, there is a distinct space between the lower legs and knees. This may be a result of either one, or both, of the legs curving outward. Walking often exaggerates this bowed appearance. Adolescents occasionally have bowed legs. In many of these cases, the child is significantly overweight.


  • Physiologic Genu Varum
  • Blount's Disease
  • Rickets



Bowed legs are most evident when a child stands and walks. The most common symptom of bowed legs is an awkward walking pattern. Toddlers with bowed legs usually have normal coordination, and are not delayed in learning how to walk. The amount of bowing can be significant, however, and can be quite alarming to parents and family members. Turning in of the feet (intoeing) is also common in toddlers and frequently occurs in combination with bowed legs.


Natural Progession of Disease

Physiologic genu varum nearly always spontaneously corrects itself as the child grows. This correction usually occurs by the age of 3 to 4 years. Untreated infantile Blount's disease or untreated rickets results in progressive worsening of the bowing in later childhood and adolescence. Ultimately, these children have leg discomfort (especially the knees) due to the abnormal stresses that occur on the joints. Adolescents with Blount's disease are most likely to experience pain with the bowing.

Surgical Treatment

  • Guided growth. This surgery of the growth plate stops the growth on the healthy side of the shinbone which gives the abnormal side a chance to catch up, straightening the leg with the child’s natural growth.
  • Tibial osteotomy. In this procedure, the shinbone is cut just below the knee and reshaped to correct the alignment. The bone is held in place while it heals with either an internal plate and screws, or an external frame that is positioned on the outside of the leg.
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