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What is osteonecrosis (avascular necrosis)?

Francisco J. Borja, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Avascular necrosis, also known as osteonecrosis, is a painful condition that occurs when the blood supply to the bone is disrupted. One common site for this condition is the head of the femur, where it meets the hip. Ultimately, avascular necrosis can cause destruction of the joint and lead to arthritis.
Avascular necrosis (osteonecrosis) is diminished blood flow to part of a bone, which leads to bone tissue death. Later stages of avascular necrosis can progress to decreased range of motion, joint pain, arthritis, or total loss of function.

(This answer provided for NATA by the University of Tampa Athletic Training Education Program)

Osteonecrosis (also known as avascular necrosis, aseptic necrosis, or ischemic necrosis of bone), is bone death that occurs when the blood supply to the bones is reduced. The disease most often arises in the hips but can also affect the shoulders, knees, and ankles. Osteonecrosis affects men more often than women; it can be caused by disorders that block blood supply to the bones, such as blood-clotting disorders, or by injury. While people of any age may be affected, it most commonly strikes between the ages of 40 and 65 (although noninjury osteonecrosis is more often seen in younger people, ages 30 to 50). There may be no symptoms in the early stages, but usually pain increases as the disease progresses.

Avascular necrosis (or osteonecrosis) is the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply. This can lead to tiny breaks in the bone and the bone's eventual collapse. Avascular necrosis most often affects the head of the thighbone (femur), but it may also affect other bones.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.