What is Osteonecrosis?

21 August 2017

Osteonecrosis is a rare bone condition affecting a small percentage of the population in the UK. Although the disease is rare, osteonecrosis can cause severe pain and discomfort and there is currently no known cure so living with the condition is difficult. At Wrist Supports, we've put together a guide to help you understand the disease so you can get the help you need.

What is Osteonecrosis?

When you have healthy blood flow in your body, new bone cells are constantly replacing old bone cells so you can remain healthy and strong. If you have osteonecrosis, however, your bones break down faster than your body is able to create new cells as a result of decreased blood flow in the area. This can cause bones to collapse and break down if not treated as soon as possible.

The condition is most commonly referred to as avascular necrosis (AVN) but it can also be referred to by the following names:

  • Aseptic necrosis
  • Bone infarction
  • Ischemic necrosis

What Causes Osteonecrosis?

Although some groups of people are more likely to suffer from osteonecrosis, the condition can also affect people for no apparent reason even when they don't have any other health problems. A common cause for the condition is when you sustain an injury and your blood supply is cut off to one of your bones as a result. Other causes include:

  • Use of steroid medications
  • Chronic and excessive use of alcohol
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus)
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Organ transplants

Signs and Symptoms

When the disease is in its early stages there might not be any signs of the condition whatsoever, which can make diagnosing osteonecrosis difficult. As the disease progresses, it might become painful to put your weight on the joint or use the affected area as you normally would.  If left untreated, this pain becomes more severe and might even flair up while you rest.

Osteonecrosis can make using the joint impossible if you let the condition develop so far. When the disease is in your leg, you'll often lose the ability to walk. The time it takes for this to happen once symptoms have begun can range from months to years.

Treatment Options for the Condition

Starting treatment as early as possible will largely improve how effective the treatment is. Early treatment usually includes the use of pain medications to reduce your discomfort, as well as limiting the amount of weight you place on the joint, particularly if osteonecrosis is present in one of your legs or hips. As osteonecrosis can limit your range of motion, your doctor might also suggest exercises to help improve this.

If your osteonecrosis is becoming worse, you might need a surgical procedure to help improve blood flow. This includes core decompression, which helps lower pressure inside your bone to increase blood pressure in the area. Your doctor might also suggest one of the following surgeries:

  • Osteotomy: removing dead bone and positioning the remaining bone so it can support the area
  • Bone graft: removing dead bone and replacing it with healthy bone found elsewhere in the body
  • Total joint replacement: this involves replacing your joint with a prosthetic version

Osteonecrosis at Wrist Supports

During early treatment, it's important that you try not to use the joint as much as possible to prevent further deterioration of the bone. At WristSupports.co.uk, we have a range of supports to help immobilise your wrist when you suffer from osteonecrosis in the area. We've hand-picked these wrist braces specifically for osteonecrosis so they'll help support you as much as possible.


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