Osteonecrosis: Symptoms and Treatment

Osteonecrosis is a severe form of arthritis which affects the blood supply to the bone, resulting in the death of the bone. The condition can be difficult to treat early because the average patient does not usually exhibit any symptoms at the early stages of the disease. The commonest symptoms are pain and stiffness after a period of physical activity.

 Many patients with osteonecrosis in the hip experience a concentration of pain in the groin. At the early stages of the disease, pain is only evident when the affected area is in use. In the advanced stages, pain is felt even when the joint is at rest. Your doctor will diagnose osteonecrosis through the use of X-rays. However, X-rays will reveal only cases that have developed beyond the early stages. Some health professionals also use magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) to check for tissue damage. In some cases, the patient may require a CAT scan before a firm diagnosis can be made.

In some cases aggressive treatment may be necessary to prevent the disintegration of the joints. Early detection is important in order to ensure that the affected areas can be saved. If the disease has progressed into the advanced stages, treatment may not be effective at saving the affected joints. Many cases of osteonecrosis require surgery. Currently there are several types of procedures used to treat osteonecrosis. One of these is known as core decompression. Core decompression is a fairly simple procedure that is suitable for cases where the symptoms are still mild. The procedure consists of creating a hole to remove a thin layer of the affected bone. This helps increase blood flow to the bone, and reduces pressure.

Another common type of surgical intervention to treat osteonecrosis is bone grafting. Bone grafting is used to support the affected joint. This is a  complicated procedure in which healthy bone is removed and then transplanted into the affected area. Dead bone is replaced with healthy bone. Bone grafting is reserved for cases where the condition has advanced to the final stages. After a bone grafting, the patient will need to use assistive devices for up to a year after surgery in order to promote healing.

Osteotomy is a third surgical treatment option for osteonecrosis patients. This consists of cutting the bone below the affected area, and then turning the bone so that a healthy section of the bone becomes the new weight bearing area. This is a complex procedure that is reserved for advanced cases of osteonecrosis.

The fourth type of surgical treatment is an arthoplasty, or total hip replacement. Obviously, this is reserved for more advanced cases where the hip socket has become diseased. The procedure consists of replacing the damaged hip joint with an artificial hip.

For cases that do not require surgery, the doctor may prescribe drug therapies aimed at halting the progress of the disease. Drug therapies in combination with exercise and assistive devices are usually given in less advanced cases. Currently, researchers are working toward the production of new drugs that help promote the growth of new bone while increasing blood flow to damaged joints.









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