Avascular necrosis (AVN) is a painful and discomforting orthopedic condition that requires your immediate attention. Also known as osteonecrosis, AVN is a condition that occurs when a specific area of bone loses its blood supply, resulting in a depletion of vital nutrients and oxygen necessary for its survival.
This lack of blood flow causes the bone tissue to deteriorate, resembling a neglected structure crumbling over time. The resulting consequences can be severe, including pain, stiffness, and limited mobility as the bone struggles to withstand the strain.
Managing AVN requires proper diagnosis and timely treatment to ensure the preservation of bone health. Your bones serve as the foundation for your body, supporting its structure, and maintaining its strength and health is crucial for overall well-being.
Before diving into the different AVN treatment procedures, let us understand how to identify the disease and know that things are serious.
How To Identify Avascular Necrosis?
It is common for patients to ignore mild symptoms of AVN as they resemble most trivial musculoskeletal problems. However, it is important to be on the lookout for the following symptoms that will prompt you to consult an orthopedic surgeon:
Pain is often the first and most common symptom of AVN. This pain may be localized to the affected joint and may be mild initially, but it can progressively worsen over time. In most cases, it is aggravated by weight-bearing activities, such as walking or standing, and may be constant or intermittent.
Limited Range of Motion
As AVN progresses, the affected joint may become stiff and have a reduced range of motion. It may feel “locked” or difficult to move, affecting your daily activities like walking, bending, or lifting.
Swelling around the affected joint may also occur during AVN due to inflammation and increased pressure within the joint. This swelling may be mild to moderate and may worsen with increased physical activity or weight-bearing.
In some cases, AVN can cause the affected joint to become unstable or loose, leading to a feeling of joint “giving way” or instability. This can hamper balance and mobility and may be more prominent in weight-bearing joints such as the hip or knee.
Due to pain and limited range of motion, muscles around the affected joint may weaken over time. This can lead to muscle imbalances, altered gait (walking pattern), and decreased functional abilities.
In advanced AVN stages, the affected bone may collapse or deform, leading to changes in joint shape and structure. The joint deformity may cause you further pain, reduced range of motion, and functional limitations.
If you or anyone in your family experiences any of these symptoms, make sure you seek a thorough diagnosis and AVN treatment to restore normalcy.
AVN Treatment Options
The treatment options for avascular necrosis depend mainly on the severity of the disease. Depending on the extent of damage caused to your bones, AVN is divided into four grades/stages. While the early stages can be treated with non-surgical procedures, the advanced and more serious stages require surgical AVN treatment.
Let us start understanding the cure of AVN by understanding the non-surgical treatment procedures:
Doctors often prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and reduce inflammation caused due to mild cases of AVN. In some cases, medications such as bisphosphonates, which help slow down bone loss, or anticoagulants, which help prevent blood clots, may also be used.
Limiting weight-bearing activities and using crutches or a cane to reduce the load on the affected joint can also help you protect the damaged bone from further damage while promoting healing.
Physical therapy may be recommended by orthopedic doctors to improve joint strength, flexibility, and range of motion. It can also help reduce pain and improve your joint’s overall function.
The use of orthotic devices like braces or shoe inserts may help redistribute weight and reduce stress on the affected joint, providing pain relief and aiding in healing from AVN.
If the case is severe and the damage is serious, your doctor can recommend one of the following surgical AVN treatment procedures:
This surgical procedure involves removing a core of bone from the affected area to relieve pressure and improve blood flow to the bone. It is often combined with bone grafting to stimulate new bone growth.
Osteotomy is another surgical procedure in which the bone is cut and reshaped to realign the joint and reduce stress on the affected area. It is typically used in cases where AVN has caused joint deformity or misalignment.
Joint Replacement Surgery
In several advanced cases of AVN where the joint is severely damaged, joint replacement surgery may be recommended by orthopedic surgeons. This involves removing your damaged joint and replacing it with an artificial joint made of metal, plastic, or ceramic components.
Vascularized Bone Grafting
This surgical procedure involves transferring a piece of bone from another part of your body along with its blood vessels to the affected area, promoting new bone growth and restoring blood supply to the damaged region.
In some cases, arthroscopy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure, may be used to remove loose fragments of bone or damaged tissue from the joint, helping to alleviate pain and improve joint function. It is a quick and safe surgical procedure that allows patients to go home the same day.
Some orthopedic surgeons also use electrical stimulation techniques like pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy to stimulate bone healing and promote new bone growth to tackle avascular necrosis.
The Final Word
These were some of the most important AVN treatment procedures to cure the silent bone disease and provide relief to the patient. If you or any of your loved ones have been experiencing prolonged pain, discomfort, or complications hinting toward AVN, make sure you consult an orthopedic doctor to rule out all possibilities and get started with the suitable treatment procedure without any delay.