Avascular necrosis, also called osteonecrosis is a condition in which bone death occurs because of inadequate blood supply to it. Lack of blood flow may occur when there is a fracture in the bone or a joint dislocation that may damage nearby blood vessels. Chronic use of high doses of steroid medications and heavy alcohol consumption are the two main risk factors of avascular necrosis. Initially, small breaks appear in the bone that may eventually collapse. The hip joint is most commonly affected; however, the knee and shoulder may also be involved.
What are the symptoms of AVN?
The symptoms appear suddenly if it’s a result of an injury. In other situations, the pain and stiffness may gradually appear over a period. Typically, avascular necrosis causes pain and restricted range of motion in the joint affected.
How do you diagnose AVN?
Your doctor may diagnose the condition using imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI scan and bone scan. These investigations may also that help rule out other causes of joint hip pain.
How can you treat AVN?
The treatment for avascular necrosis aims at relieving pain preventing further loss of bone and it depends on the bone damage that has occurred already. Conservative treatment may help in the early stages of avascular necrosis whereas surgical treatment may be required in more advanced stages.
- Medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’S) may be prescribed that help control your pain and swelling
- Rest: Restriction of physical activities and use of crutches to decrease weight bearing on your joints may be beneficial
- Exercises: Regular exercises that improve your range of motion may be done
- Core decompression: During this procedure, a portion of the inner layer of the bone is removed to relieve the pressure inside the bone. This decreases the pain and allows growth of new blood vessels thereby stimulates new bone growth
- Joint replacement: Joint replacement surgery is done as a last resort when the bone has collapsed needing artificial replacement