Valgus deformity is a term used in orthopedics to describe a condition in which a segment of a joint or bone is angled outward. The opposite of a valgus deformity is a varus deformity, in which a segment of a bone or joint is angled inward. The two terms, however, are often mistakenly interchanged. Such types of deformities are most often present in hips, knees, and feet. When necessary, these deformities can, to some degree, be surgically repaired.
Though they are often interchanged, the terms valgus and varus are always supposed to refer to the specific direction in which the distal segment in the joint is facing. The distal segment of a joint is the point farthest away from center of the spot where the separate bones physically join. In Latin, valgas means “knock-kneed” and varus means “bowlegged.” The modern names for these deformities were derived from these Latin terms. A valgus deformity always refers to a condition in which the distal point of the joint points outward, while a varus deformity always refers to a condition in which the distal point of the joint points inward.
Genu valgum, a condition colloquially described as “knock-knees,” is a condition in which the knees angle in and, often, touch each other. In this condition, the femur is angled inward in relation to the hip; this is a varus deformity. In the same condition, however, the knees face outward; this is a valgus deformity. Both deformities are present in the same condition, so it is vital to use the proper terms to describe them.
There are several different types of valgus deformities depending on the specific joint that is deformed. In the hip, such deformities are known as coxa valga. Typically, the shaft of the femur is angled outward from the neck of the femur. Cubitus valgus describes a deformity in the elbow and results in turned-in elbows. In hallux valgus, the big toe points toward the second toe, and the joint points outward, away from the foot.
Valgus deformities can occur at several other joints and bones, such as the knees and ankles. A varus deformity can occur at the same variety of joints and bones that a valgus deformity can occur at. Without treatment, these deformities can place stress on other joints and bones and cause further problems. The main problems associated with a valgus deformity are pain and difficulty of movement. Successful surgery can partially or completely fix these problems.