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Hip Pain Stopped Jackson in His Tracks—Then Doctors Found a Growth

After an X-ray revealed a mass on Jackson Clifton’s hip, he was diagnosed with a rare condition called PVNS. Thankfully, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta orthopedic specialists are trained to detect hip conditions that can be rare in children.

Baseball in a field

Jackson was an athletic and joyful 4-year-old who loved baseball. So it concerned his parents when he started complaining of hip pain so severe that he could barely walk.

The pain came and went for a few weeks before it brought Jackson to a standstill. “A few days before a ski trip, he buckled and was like, ‘I’m not walking. I can’t get up,’” says his mother, Kendra.

A startling X-ray

Jackson was rushed to his family pediatrician, who performed an X-ray. “He took one look and said, ‘You need to get him to the emergency room immediately,’” says Kendra. “That’s when we went to Children’s.”

Once bloodwork ruled out an infection, Jackson’s care team performed an MRI. The scan revealed a 1-inch mass in Jackson’s hip.

A rare condition

Jackson was diagnosed with localized pigmented villonodular synovitis (PVNS), a rare joint disease caused by an overgrowth in the lining of the joints and the development of a benign tumor. If untreated, this tumor destroys cartilage and leads to arthritis.

With an average age of diagnosis of 35, PVNS is far more common in adults. “PVNS is often missed and diagnosed as something else, like arthritis or an infection, in children and teens,” says S. Clifton Willimon, MD, a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon and Medical Director of Orthopedic Quality and Outcomes at Children’s.

An expert perspective

Having published research on pediatric and adolescent cases of PVNS, Dr. Willimon was perfectly suited to help Jackson.

Dr. Willimon met with Jackson and his family to plan surgery to remove the mass from Jackson’s hip. Minimally invasive arthroscopy would help ensure a shorter recovery time and less pain.

Jackson’s surgery was a resounding success, leaving him with only three small scars. He returned home the same day and felt the difference almost immediately.

“We took him out of baseball for the season,” says Kendra, “but in three days, he was off his walker and wanting to run around. We had to force him to stay still.”

Back in action

These days, Jackson is more active than ever. He loves to ski—both on water and snow—and plays baseball, basketball and flag football.

While he doesn’t remember much about the tumor or the surgery, he carries fond memories of Dr. Willimon and his ability to make his pain disappear.

We are specially trained to care for common and rare hip conditions.

Left untreated, hip conditions in children can lead to serious problems later. Our team of orthopedic specialists is trained to recognize and treat hip conditions early.

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