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Avascular necrosis (AVN): Cause, Symptoms, Risk Factors And Treatment




Avascular necrosis (AVN) is a serious condition that can cause discomfort and restrict your mobility. Read further to learn about the causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatments for AVN.

Dr Ashish Arbat, Orthopedic & Joint Replacement Surgeon, Jehangir Multispeciality Hospitals, Pune

Avascular necrosis (AVN) happens when the blood supply to the bones gets cut off resulting in the death of tissues in the bone. It is also known as osteonecrosis, where an individual experiences bone collapse due to tiny cracks in the bones. Anyone can get affected with AVN irrespective of age and gender. However, it is more common in individuals from the age group of 30 to 50. It is a long-term process that might take months and even years to develop. AVN is a painful condition that can significantly affect your bones and cause discomfort over time. If left untreated it can lead to health concerns like severe joint pain and arthritis. There can be various factors that can disrupt the blood flow to the bones causing AVN such as sudden trauma or injury, long-term use of steroids, excessive amounts of alcohol, and medical conditions.

The causes and risk factors

•⁠ ⁠Sudden trauma or injury: A sudden injury like a fracture, or bone dislocation can severely damage your blood vessels. When the blood vessels are damaged, it becomes nearly impossible to supply oxygen-rich blood to the bone tissues. This further leads to the death of the cells causing avascular necrosis.

•⁠ ⁠Long-term use of steroids: To treat conditions like arthritis, asthma, or lupus, doctors often prescribe steroids to reduce inflammation. High dosages of these steroids can result in a buildup of fatty deposits in the blood vessels. This can narrow down your blood vessels resulting in reduced blood supply to the bones.

•⁠ ⁠Alcohol consumption: Just like long-term use of steroids, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause the accumulation of fatty substances in the blood vessels. This can significantly block the blood flow to the bones, resulting in avascular necrosis.

•⁠ ⁠Certain medical conditions: Health conditions like blood disorders, inflammatory diseases, and metabolic disorders can increase the onset of avascular necrosis. Blood disorders like sickle cell anemia can cause blood cells to stick together resulting in blockage in the blood vessels.

The symptoms: AVN can affect any bone, but it mostly affects your hips. One might experience symptoms like persistent pain when putting pressure on your bones, joints becoming stiff and causing discomfort, mobility getting restricted, and starting to limp if you develop AVN in your hips or knees. It becomes difficult to stand, walk, and even climb stairs. Recognizing these symptoms can lead to prompt diagnosis and increase the chances of a positive outcome.

Treatment: The main goal of the treatment for AVN is to ease the discomfort, prevent the bones from further getting damaged, and improve your joint health. The treatment plan is determined by considering factors like age, severity of the condition, location of the bone damage, and the root cause of the AVN. If your AVN is at an early stage, then certain medications like NSAIDs, osteoporosis drugs, and blood thinners can help improve the condition. Hip replacement can improve one’s quality of life and range of motion when the hip pain interferes with one’s ability to do daily activities with ease. Currently, SuperPAth high replacement is an effective technique that provides hope for patients suffering from AVN. It is a minimally invasive total hip technique that involves using a smaller incision that doesn’t dislocate the hip or cause harm to the nearby muscles or tendons. This ensures a shorter recovery period and hospital stay, minimal blood loss, and is extremely safe and gives successful outcomes. The patients can walk the next day post-surgery without any trouble. This technique is becoming increasingly popular among AVN patients who wish to get that much-needed relief from the unbearable hip pain. Your doctor might recommend undergoing various therapies like physiotherapy to improve the range of motion in your joints and restrict physical activities to avoid putting strain on the affected area.

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