In most cases, a disease or injury affecting your bones also affects your mobility. One such notorious orthopedic condition is avascular necrosis (AVN). AVN occurs when an accident or underlying health condition cuts off the blood flow to one or more of your bones.

In this blog, without diving too deep into the condition, we will explore AVN and understand the silent bone disease a little better.

What Is Avascular Necrosis?

Imagine your bones as a living, dynamic system that is constantly renewing itself. Like a well-choreographed dance, your body creates new bone tissue to replace the old, aging tissue that naturally breaks down and dies. However, sometimes this delicate balance is disrupted, and that’s when avascular necrosis rears its ugly head.

Avascular necrosis, also known as osteonecrosis, occurs when the blood flow to a certain area of bone is obstructed, depriving it of the essential nutrients and oxygen it needs to thrive. Without an adequate blood supply, the bone tissue begins to wither away, crumbling like a neglected structure. Over time, the bone can collapse under the strain, leading to pain, stiffness, and limited mobility.

AVN is a complex and intricate process, and when it goes awry, it can have serious consequences for your bone health. Proper diagnosis and timely AVN treatment are vital to managing this condition and preserving the integrity of your skeletal system. After all, your bones are the foundation that supports your body, and keeping them healthy and strong is essential for overall well-being.

What Causes Avascular Necrosis?

Depending on the region experiencing the lack of blood supply, AVN can affect patients in multiple regions, including ankles, jaws, upper arms, shoulders, and knees.

There are two major causes of avascular necrosis – traumatic and non-traumatic. Traumatic AVN occurs when you break a bone or dislocate a joint after an accident or injury. On the other hand, non-traumatic AVN occurs due to an ongoing illness or medical condition triggering the symptoms.

Here are some of the most common causes that may prompt you to seek AVN treatment:

Traumatic Injury

Avascular necrosis can occur as a result of a traumatic injury to a bone, such as a fracture or dislocation. The disruption of blood vessels supplying the bone can lead to compromised blood flow, causing the bone tissue to die.

Corticosteroid Medications

Long-term use of high-dose corticosteroid medications (a type of anti-inflammatory drugs), such as prednisone, can increase the risk of avascular necrosis. These medications can disrupt the normal bone remodeling process and impair blood flow to the bones, leading to avascular necrosis.

Alcohol and Substance Abuse

Excessive alcohol consumption and abuse of certain substances, such as corticosteroids or bisphosphonates, can also damage blood vessels and impair blood flow to the bones, increasing the risk of AVN.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions like sickle cell anemia, lupus, and HIV, can increase the risk of avascular necrosis. These conditions can affect blood vessels and compromise blood flow to your bones.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy used in the treatment of cancer can also damage your blood vessels and bone tissue, leading to avascular necrosis in the affected region.

Medical Procedures

Certain medical procedures, such as bone marrow transplantation or joint surgeries, can hamper blood flow to your bones and increase the risk of avascular necrosis.

Genetic Factors

In a few cases, avascular necrosis may have a genetic component, with a family history of the condition increasing the risk of developing it.

What Are The Symptoms Of Avascular Necrosis?

Let us now have a look at some of the major symptoms of the silent bone disease:

  • Erratic pain that increases and decreases as you add and release pressure on your bones, respectively
  • Stiff joints
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Limping (especially in the case of avascular necrosis in the hip or knees)
  • Difficulty in climbing stairs, walking, or standing

How Is Avascular Necrosis Diagnosed?

When you approach a trusted orthopedic surgeon in your city, they will conduct an initial physical examination and ask you questions about your symptoms. Depending on this, they may recommend one or more of the following diagnostic tests to confirm AVN:


X-rays are often the first imaging study performed to evaluate bone health. X-rays can show changes in the shape and structure of bones, including areas of bone loss, collapse, or sclerosis that may indicate AVN.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI is a sensitive imaging test that can provide detailed images of soft tissues, including bones. It is often considered the gold standard for diagnosing AVN, as it can detect early changes in bone tissue that may not be visible on X-rays.

Bone Scan

A bone scan involves injecting a radioactive tracer into your bloodstream, which is then absorbed by the bones. Areas of bone with decreased blood flow, such as those affected by AVN, may show up as “hot spots” on your bone scan.

Computed Tomography (CT) Scan

CT scans use a combination of X-rays and computer processing to create cross-sectional images of bones. CT scans can provide detailed images of your bone structure and can be helpful in evaluating the extent and location of AVN.

Blood Tests

Your doctor may also recommend blood tests to check underlying medical conditions that could be contributing to your AVN, such as sickle cell anemia or lupus.

Joint Aspiration

If your AVN is suspected in a joint, joint aspiration may be recommended to obtain a sample of your synovial fluid for analysis. This can help doctors rule out other causes of joint pain and inflammation.

The Final Word

For starters, this was everything you should know about avascular necrosis to understand its perils and take the first step toward AVN treatment. If you or any of your loved ones have been experiencing even minor symptoms as discussed above, consult an orthopedic surgeon without any delay. This will help you recover and get your bones on track faster. Avoidable delays in such matters often assume ugly proportions in the future.