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Osteonecrosis is a disease caused by reduced blood flow to bones in the joints. In people with healthy bones, new bone is always replacing old bone. In osteonecrosis, the lack of blood causes the bone to break down faster than the body can make enough new bone. The bone starts to die and may break down.
You can have osteonecrosis in one or several bones. It is most common in the upper leg. Other common sites are your upper arm and your knees, shoulders and ankles. The disease can affect men and women of any age, but it usually strikes in your thirties, forties or fifties.
At first, you might not have any symptoms. As the disease gets worse, you will probably have joint pain that becomes more severe. You may not be able to bend or move the affected joint very well.
No one is sure what causes the disease. Risk factors include :
- Long-term steroid treatment
- Alcohol misuse
- Joint injuries
- Having certain diseases, including arthritis and cancer
Doctors use imaging tests and other tests to diagnose osteonecrosis. Treatments include medicines, using crutches, limiting activities that put weight on the affected joints, electrical stimulation and surgery.
NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
- Avascular Necrosis (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Osteonecrosis (American College of Rheumatology) Also in Spanish
- Osteonecrosis (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases) Also in Spanish
Diagnosis and Tests
Treatments and Therapies
- Bone Grafts: MedlinePlus Health Topic (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Hip Replacement Surgery (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases) Also in Spanish
- Kienböck's Disease (American Society for Surgery of the Hand)
- Osteonecrosis of the Jaw (ONJ) (American College of Rheumatology) Also in Spanish
- Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease: MedlinePlus Genetics (National Library of Medicine)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease (National Institutes of Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Osteonecrosis (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: The feasibility of discriminating BRONJ lesion bone with Raman spectroscopy.
- Article: Scapho-luno-capitate fusion with proximal lunate articular surface preservation for management of...
- Article: Risk factors for avascular necrosis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus:...
- Osteonecrosis -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation)
- Osteonecrosis (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish