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Knock knees

Definition

Knock knees is a condition in which the lower legs are positioned at an outward angle. When the knees are touching, the ankles are separated.

Alternative Names

Genu valgum

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Most children develop a slight knock-kneed stance by the time they are 2 or 3 years old, often with significant separation at the ankles when the knees are touching. This is part of normal development and often persists through age 5 or 6, at which time the legs begin to straighten fully. By puberty, most children can stand with the knees and ankles touching (without forcing the position).

Knock knees can also develop as a result of a disease, most often one that has already been diagnosed.

Signs and tests

If a doctor's examination and review of the child's medical history indicate a specific cause for the knock knees other than normal development, your health care provider will order the appropriate studies.

Treatment

Knock knees are usually not treated. Surgery may be considered for knock knees that persist beyond late childhood and in which the separation between the ankles is severe.

Expectations (prognosis)

Children normally outgrow knock knees without treatment, unless there is an underlying disease. For cases requiring surgery, the procedure provides excellent cosmetic results.

Complications

  • Difficulty walking (very rare)
  • Self-esteem changes related to cosmetic appearance of knock knees
  • If left untreated, knock knees can lead to early arthritis of the knee

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider to schedule an evaluation if you suspect your child has knock knees.

Prevention

There is no known prevention for normal knock knees.

References

Sass P, Hassan G. Lower extremity abnormalities in children. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Aug 1;68(3):461-8. Review.


Review Date: 3/14/2009
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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