What is Kienbock's Disease?

14 August 2017

Pain and swelling of the wrist usually indicate a sprain, yet if the symptoms only worsen with time, it is crucial to seek medical advice, as you may be dealing with Kienbock's disease. Although quite rare, this wrist condition can have devastating consequences if not caught early on.

Here at WristSupports.co.uk, we have prepared a comprehensive guide that will help you learn all about the symptoms, progression, causes and treatment options for Kienbock's disease.

What is Kienbock's Disease?

Kienbock's disease is a rare condition of the wrist that occurs when the lunate bone, one of the the eight fragile carpal bones in the wrist, becomes damaged and loses its blood supply. If the blood supply is cut off for a longer period of time, oxygen and nutrients cannot reach the tissue, leading to its deterioration. 

Symptoms of Kienbock's Disease

Kienbock's disease progresses through four stages, each of which comes with its own range of symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms that are present in all four stages, include:

  • Swelling, pain and stiffness in the wrist
  • Clicking or clunking sound in the wrist
  • Weakening of grip strength
  • Tenderness over the lunate bone
  • Difficulty when turning the hand upward

Kienbock's Disease

Four Stages of Kienbock's Disease

Kienbock's disease progresses very slowly and tends to develop subtly over a number of years. The illness progresses through four stages:

  • Stage 1: The lunate bone loses its blood supply. There is pain, swelling and a risk of fracture.
  • Stage 2: The bone seems unusually dense under x-ray.
  • Stage 3: The bone starts to fragment and collapse.
  • Stage 4: The lunate bone has collapsed completely, while the surrounding bones have become damaged and arthritic.

What Causes Kienbock's Disease?

Kienbock's disease doesn't have a single cause, but stems from multiple factors:

  • Problems with arterial blood supply
  • Blood not draining away properly through the veins
  • Trauma, such as a blow to the wrist
  • Skeletal variations, such as an abnormally shaped lunate bone

It is most common with people between the ages of 20 to 40 years and it occurs more frequently in men than in women.

Treatment Options

Since the disease takes a long time to develop, the treatment option very much depends on how early the condition is diagnosed. 

When catching Kienbock's disease early on, during Stage 1, common non-invasive options can solve the problem:

  • Resting the wrist, particularly with the help of wrist splints, supports or braces, for several months. This will restore the blood flow to the lunate bone and increase the chances of full recovery
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs that help manage the swelling and pain
  • Cortisone injections

Once the condition has progressed, surgery may be the only option. There are several surgical procedures available and choosing the right one depends on several factors, including the stage of the disease, the patient's activity level and personal goals.

Luckily, when caught at its beginning, the condition can be treated with splinting. Explore our broad range of Wrist Supports for Kienbock's Disease.


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