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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 Osteonecrosis.

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 joints.

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.