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Osteonecrosis, also known as avascular necrosis, is a condition characterized by the death of bone tissue due to a lack of blood supply. Severe osteonecrosis can lead to progressive joint damage, pain, and disability. Treatment approaches aim to relieve symptoms, preserve joint function, and, in some cases, prevent further deterioration of the affected bone. The specific treatment plan depends on factors such as the stage of osteonecrosis, the location of the affected bone, and the underlying cause. Here are common treatment modalities for osteonecrosis.

Conservative Management

In the early stages of osteonecrosis, especially when the affected area is small, conservative measures may be employed. This includes lifestyle modifications to reduce stress on the affected joint, physical therapy to improve joint function and strength, and pain management with over-the-counter or prescription medications.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used to manage pain and reduce inflammation associated with osteonecrosis. Additionally, medications such as bisphosphonates may be prescribed to slow bone loss and promote bone density. However, the effectiveness of medications may vary, and they are often part of a broader treatment plan.

Core Decompression

Core decompression is a surgical procedure that involves removing a core of bone from the affected area to relieve pressure, improve blood flow, and stimulate the formation of new bone. This procedure is often considered in the early stages of osteonecrosis, particularly in weight-bearing joints like the hip.

Bone Grafting or Osteochondral Allograft/Autograft

Bone grafting is a surgical technique in which healthy bone tissue is transplanted from one part of the body (autograft) or from a donor (allograft) to the site of osteonecrosis. This procedure helps provide structural support, enhance blood flow, and promote the regeneration of bone in the affected area.

Joint-preserving Surgeries

Several joint-preserving surgical techniques may be considered, depending on the location and extent of osteonecrosis. These include vascularized bone grafting, where the surgeon transfers bone with its blood supply, and osteotomy, a procedure that involves reshaping the bone to redistribute weight and reduce stress on the affected area.

Partial or Total Joint Replacement

In advanced cases where joint damage is extensive, partial or total joint replacement surgery may be recommended. This involves removing some or all of the damaged joint and replacing it with an artificial joint (prosthesis). Total joint replacement is particularly common in osteonecrosis of the hip and knee, providing pain relief and restoring function.

Addressing the underlying causes of osteonecrosis, such as corticosteroid use, excessive alcohol consumption, or certain medical conditions, is crucial for long-term management. This may involve lifestyle modifications, medication adjustments, or interventions to address specific risk factors.

It is important to note that the choice of treatment depends on individual factors, and a comprehensive approach may involve a combination of these modalities. The management of severe osteonecrosis requires close collaboration between patients and their orthopedic surgeon to tailor treatment plans based on the specific characteristics of the condition and the patient’s overall health. If you have been diagnosed with osteonecrosis and it is no longer responding to conservative treatments, contact the Robotic Joint Center. We offer advanced treatment options for osteonecrosis of the knee at our orthopedic center in NYC.

Posted on behalf of Robotic Joint Center

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