Osteonecrosis: Symptoms and Treatment
Osteonecrosis is a severe form of arthritis in which the
bone loses its blood supply, causing the death of the bone.
The condition can be difficult to treat because the
average patient does not usually manifest symptoms at the early
stages of the disease. The most common symptoms are pain and
stiffness after a period of physical activity. Since these
common symptoms are used to describe almost any arthritis
condition, doctors do not generally search for possible
Many patients with osteonecrosis in the
hip experience a concentration of pain in the area of the
groin. At the beginning stages of the disease, pain is only
evident when the affected area is in use. In the advanced
stages, pain is felt even when the joint is at rest.
Your doctor will diagnose osteonecrosis through the use of
X-rays. However, X-rays will reveal only cases that have
developed beyond the beginning stages. Some doctors also use
magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) to look for tissue damage. In
some cases, the patient may require a CAT scan before a firm
diagnosis can be made.
To stop the disintegration of the joints, aggressive
treatment may be necessary. Early detection is key in order to
ensure that the affected bones and joints can be
saved. If the disease has progressed into the advanced stages,
treatment may not be effective in saving the affected
Many cases of osteonecrosis require surgical intervention.
Currently there are several types of surgeries used to treat
osteonecrosis. These are basic but over simplified explanations
of each surgery.
One of these surgeries is known as Core Decompression. Core
Decompression is a relatively simple procedure that is
best in cases where the symptoms are still mild. The
procedure consists of creating a hole to remove a thin layer of
the affected bone. This helps increase blood flow to the bone,
and reduces pressure.
Another common type of surgical procedure is bone grafting.
Bone grafting is used to support the affected joint. This is a
somewhat complicated procedure in which healthy bone is removed
from one area and then transplanted to the affected area.
Dead bone is therefore replaced with healthy bone. Bone
grafting is reserved for cases where the condition has advanced
to the final stages. After a bone graft, the patient will need
to use assistive devices for up to a year after surgery in
order to assist healing.
Osteotomy is a third surgical treatment option for
osteonecrosis patients. This consists of cutting the bone below
the affected area, and then turning the bone so that a healthy
part of the bone becomes the new weight bearing area. This is a
complex procedure that is used only for advanced
cases of osteonecrosis.
The fourth type of surgical treatment
is an arthoplasty, or total hip replacement. Obviously, this is
reserved for more advanced cases where the hip socket has
become diseased. The procedure consists of replacing the
damaged hip joint with an artificial hip joint.
For cases that do not require surgical intervention, the
doctor may prescribe drug therapies aimed at stopping the
progress of the disease. Drug therapies in combination with
exercise and assistive devices are usually given in less
advanced cases. Currently, researchers are working toward the
production of new drugs that help promote the growth of new
bone while increasing blood flow to damaged joints.