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Osteonecrosis, also called as avascular necrosis or aseptic necrosis is a condition that can affect any bone, more commonly the hip bone. This condition occurs due to temporary or permanent disruption of blood supply to the bone cells. Let us have a look at osteonecrosis and related facts in the following paragraphs.

What is Osteonecrosis?

Osteonecrosis is a condition where the bone tissues and cells die due to disruption in supply of blood. This leads to collapse of the bone and its destruction. When the disease affects the joints, it leads to damage of the joint surface.

This condition affects people who are in their late 30’s or 50’s. It is also seen in people who are in their 20’s. Osteonecrosis affects the hip joint in majority of the cases. Other bones like the knee, ankle joint, upper arms, shoulders, etc. are also vulnerable to osteonecrosis.

Blood supply disruption can occur in one or multiple bone at a time. The degree to which the osteonecrosis will affect individual life depends on the position, severity and number of bones affected. As the bones cannot renew themselves as fast as the destruction occurring, it leads to osteonecrosis. This is then causes arthritis as well as disability in the person affected.

What are the Symptoms of Osteonecrosis?

The symptoms of osteonecrosis include:

  • Sudden pain that develops in the knee, after a minor injury or specific activity
  • The pain increases with activity and at night
  • Sensitivity to touch in the affected area
  • Limited movement of joint due to intense pain

What Causes Osteonecrosis?

The exact cause of osteonecrosis is still debatable. Many theories have been proposed as to what can lead to osteonecrosis.

These possible causes include:

  • Alcoholism can lead to formation of fatty substances that block blood vessels leading to decrease in blood supply to the affected bones.
  • Chemotherapy that destroys healthy cells along with cancerous cells
  • Excessive use of steroids
  • Caisson disease
  • Hypertension
  • Vasculitis
  • Thrombosis
  • Arterial embolism
  • Radiation
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Gaucher’s disease

In many cases, the cause of osteonecrosis is found to be idiopathic.

How is Osteonecrosis Diagnosed?

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Osteonecrosis is diagnosed with the help of bone scintigraphy and MRI in the early stages. X rays are not much help during the early stages. They are used in the later stages, when the bones are more radio-opaque.

How is Osteonecrosis Treated?

During the early stages of the disease, the non-surgical treatment methods are used. These include:

  • Prescribing medications that help in reducing and relieving pain
  • Use of braces that helps in relieving the pain on the joint surface
  • Physiotherapy to help strengthen the thigh muscles
  • Changes in daily activities suggested to help reduce the knee pain

When the disease progress, the patient may require surgical treatment. This includes:

  • Osteotomy
  • Core decompression surgery
  • Bone graft
  • Total joint replacement surgery

The type of surgical treatment opted depends on each individual condition.

Prognosis of Osteonecrosis

Prognosis depends on the bones affected. Bone rebuilding takes place under normal conditions. The bone is continuously undergoing reabsorption and  regrowth. When the healing process is slower than the destruction process, it leads to faster breakdown of tissues. When left untreated, it causes bone collapse. Thus, visit a orthopedic doctor for further advice and treatment.

Written by: healthplus24.com

Date last updated: January 25, 2015

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