Medical Q&As

Avascular necrosis - causes and treatment?

I am suffering from a pain in my foot and it has been suggested that I have avascular necrosis. What does that mean and how is it treated?

The term necrosis means the death of cells and the term avascular means that the death has occurred due to loss of blood supply. Avascular necrosis is also known by the alternative name of osteonecrosis. The condition has several causes. It can happen as a result of an injury to a bone. The injury may involve an interruption to the blood supply resulting in the death of some of the bone cells. Sometimes the condition may occur as a result of long-term steroid usage. Avascular necrosis can also occur as result of excess alcohol consumption. In that particular scenario an excess of fatty substances in the blood clog the blood vessels supplying the bone thereby interrupting the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the bone. The condition can also occur in association with pancreatitis. However, in many cases the cause of the necrosis may not be apparent. It is not possible for me to indicate the nature of the treatment plan that might be proposed for you because that would require a specialist opinion. There is no universal treatment for this condition and each treatment plan needs to be tailored for each individual patient. The treatment could involve non-weight bearing on crutches for a period of time or might require orthopaedic surgery in order to remove the dead piece of bone or even the entire bone. Some people may only require simple pain relieving measures and observation to see how the situation evolves.