Osteonecrosis is a disease that is caused when there is not an adequate supply of blood to a particular section of bone. When this happens the tissue in the bone dies off and this causes the bone itself to collapse. While researchers are not certain what can actually cause osteonecrosis, there have been some who have theorized that it can be brought on by alcoholism, hypertension, thrombosis, radiation, sickle cell anemia, steroid usage, lupus, blood clots, and rheumatoid arthritis. Since these problems have all been linked to people who have suffered from osteonecrosis then it is important to keep a watch out for problems that could indicate the disease if you are someone who is linked to any of these problems.

In the early stages of osteonecrosis the patient will likely not notice any problems or symptoms; however, as the disease worsens they could find themselves experiencing an increasing amount of joint pain, a limited range of motion, limping, and pain in the groin area. Once these symptoms have set in then it is possible that the patient has already started to experience a collapse in the affected area of the bone. Once the diagnosis of osteonecrosis has been determined, then it is likely that the physician will search for one of the underlying conditions that are considered to be contributors of this disease.

If the underlying problem is one that can be treated through medication then this will probably be the first thing that the doctor will try to do. For example, if the area is not getting enough blood due to hypertension then it is likely that the doctor will prescribe a medication that will lower your blood pressure. If the osteonecrosis was caught early enough, then this medication in conjunction with pain relievers, rest of the affected area, and exercises that are designed to target the problematic area can often be enough to help slow down the progression of the disease. However, eventually almost all people who have been diagnosed with osteonecrosis will have to go through a surgical procedure in order to have a full recovery.

There are quite a few different surgeries that can be used to help people who are suffering from osteonecrosis. The one that will work best often depends on the area that has been affected, the age of the patient, and the determination of how far the disease has progressed. One of the most common procedures is known as a bone graft. This is when a section of bone is grafted in over the diseased bone in an effort to get it to be healthier. If it has been established that the blood supply to this area has also been damaged, then the doctors might work to graft a bone with a method of blood supply already intact.

If the patient is suffering from an advanced case of osteonecrosis, then one option that could be considered is the complete replacement of the joint. This is a procedure that is commonly done in people who are experiencing the disease in their hip joints. While this is something that is generally only done in serious cases, the decision could be based on a number of factors, including the age of the patient. For example, if the dead bone is found in an elderly patient who might be looking at a hip replacement surgery anyway, then doing a complete hip replacement might be an option that would not be considered in a younger patient.

Since the prognosis for those affected with osteonecrosis depends on how far the disease has progressed when it is caught, it is a good idea to go to a doctor if you fall in one of the high risk categories and are experiencing any of the symptoms that are linked to the disease.


Last updated on Dec 4th, 2009 and filed under Musculoskeletal Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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