Osteonecrosis is the death of bone cells. It is also known as avascular necrosis because it occurs due to a lack of blood flow into the bone tissue.
Although this condition sounds like it would be an age-related condition, it actually occurs most often in people who are aged 30 to 50. That is because osteonecrosis tends to develop due to:
- Joint injuries (especially a broken bone or dislocated joint)
- Alcohol abuse
- Long-term high-dose steroid use
- Certain medical conditions (sickle cell anemia, leukemia, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatitis, lupus, and HIV)
- Certain medical treatments, such as an organ transplant (notably kidney transplant) or radiation therapy for cancer can weaken your bones
If you’ve been diagnosed with osteonecrosis, however, don’t let the term frighten you. It is a condition that can be managed, and the more you know about it, the better your outcome. Let’s talk about how to detect it, how it can be treated, and where you can go in Raleigh for outstanding orthopedic treatment to help keep you healthy and strong.
Signs and Symptoms of Osteonecrosis
In most cases, there are no obvious symptoms in the early stages of osteonecrosis. You might feel mild pain that gradually becomes more pronounced, especially when you place weight on an affected joint.
Pain associated with osteonecrosis of the hip, for example, might be centered in the groin area or in your thigh or buttock. Other areas that are likely to be affected by osteonecrosis include the knee, shoulder, hand, or foot. You may even develop osteonecrosis in both of your hips or knees.
Whenever you have persistent pain in any joint, it is important to see an orthopedic doctor so that your condition can be accurately diagnosed and treated as early as possible. If left untreated, osteonecrosis will worsen over time – and the bone may collapse or lead to severe arthritis.
How Can Osteonecrosis Be Treated?
In the early stages of osteonecrosis, your symptoms may be controlled with:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Osteoporosis medication (to help maintain bone integrity)
- Physical therapy
- Electrical stimulation to encourage new bone growth to replace the damaged bone cells
However, advanced osteonecrosis may require surgical procedures, such as:
- Core decompression in which the orthopedic surgeon removes part of the inner layer of bone, thereby reducing pain and stimulating the production of healthy bone tissue and new blood vessels.
- Bone graft in which a section of healthy bone is taken from another part of your body and fused onto the necrotic bone in order to help strengthen the bone.
- Osteotomy (bone reshaping) in which a section of bone is removed or inserted above or below your weight-bearing joint to shift your weight off the damaged bone.
- Joint replacement in which the damaged joint is replaced with prosthetic materials.
Orthopedic Surgeons in Raleigh, North Carolina
If you have osteonecrosis or unusual joint pain or bone pain, Dr. Brett Gilbert is here to diagnose and treat your orthopedic issue. Dr. Gilbert graduated from medical school and orthopedic residency at Duke, and he is a board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon with years of experience treating patients in the Raleigh area.
To learn more about our effective orthopedic treatment options, call our office today at (919) 788-8797 or you can request an appointment with Dr. Gilbert using our appointment request form, or you can self-schedule your appointment here.