Osteonecrosis, a medical condition known as “death of the bone”, occurs when bone segments suffer from a loss of or diminished blood supply causing bone fragments to literally waste away; unknown to many, the knee is the second most common joint to attain osteonecrosis, the hip being the first. This condition highly affects older women, above 60 years of age. A possible cause of osteonecrosis of the knee can be from aging or other internal factors and conditions, such as kidney transplants, or even obesity; regardless, osteonecrosis can evolve into severe osteoarthritis if not treated properly.
Four development stages diagnose the severity of osteonecrosis, and the treatments necessary for a full recovery; diagnosis can be made through X-rays or identified by existing symptoms. Depending on the stage of development, the severity of symptoms, and rate of decay, physicians will recommend different types of treatments suitable to each individual patient.
The first stage ofosteonecrosis possesses the strongest symptoms of increased or sudden joint pain, joint swelling, and heightened sensitivity triggered inside the kneecap. Generally, symptoms cause limited mobility. Symptoms, normally, span a length of 6 – 8 weeks before subsiding; due to this reason and the fact that identical symptoms are present for other conditions, the identity of osteonecrosis is often mistaken in the first stage. Diagnosis, at this point, is generally generated from detailed bone scans, and treatments rely solely on medications, external support, or physiotherapy instead of surgery. Pain relief and additional protection to the knee becomes the main focal point of treatments.
The second stage ofosteonecrosis follows in a few months, and is examinable by the flattened edges of the once rounded thighbones. MRI, CT scans or bone scans are the most appropriate methods of diagnosis. The effects of osteonecrosis become physically visible; however, surgery is not recommended still. Physicians normally will opt for medical treatments, external support and physiotherapy of increased intensity, in comparison to the first stages, to hold back the conditions of osteonecrosis and provide pain relief and protection. Patients may be required to wear a knee brace.
Most visible on X-ray scans is the third stage of osteonecrosis, occurring from 3 – 6 months after the second stage; at this point in time, the bone, itself, begins to decay away, and cartilage and joints loosen from other segments of the leg. The physical damage is apparent on X-rays, and patients should sense knee cap decay. The most recommended and effective treatment is probably surgical treatment; some may opt for surgical replacement depending on the severity of the case. Surgical treatment includes arthoscopic joint cleansing, and pressure or weight reduction.
In the last stage ofosteonecrosis, the severity of the joint decay will cause bones to collapse; destroyed cartilages, and decreased and severely loosened joints plague patients. The only medical treatment to ease the condition, at this point, is surgery. Partial or total knee surgical replacements are necessary for patients to regain mobility.
Osteonecrosis can be a hefty burden to carry, and the sooner positive diagnosis occurs, the easier it becomes to handle this medical condition. After elapsed time, not only do symptoms and conditions worsen, other conditions evolve through osteonecrosis.