Synergy Health Partners

Avascular Necrosis of the Hip


Avascular necrosis (AVN) of the hip, also known as osteonecrosis, is a condition where the blood supply to the femoral head (the ball of the hip joint) is disrupted, leading to the death of bone tissue. This can cause the bone to collapse and the joint surface to become damaged, resulting in pain and loss of hip function. AVN of the hip is a serious condition that can lead to severe arthritis and disability if not treated promptly.


Avascular necrosis can result from various factors, including:

  • Trauma: Hip fractures, dislocations, or other injuries that damage blood vessels.
  • Alcoholism: Heavy alcohol use can interfere with blood flow to the bone.
  • Corticosteroids: Long-term use of high-dose corticosteroids is a significant risk factor.
  • Medical Conditions: Conditions such as sickle cell disease, lupus, Gaucher’s disease, and coagulation disorders.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation treatment can damage blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the bone.
  • Idiopathic: In some cases, the cause of AVN is unknown.


Symptoms of avascular necrosis of the hip typically develop gradually and may include:

  • Hip Pain: Pain in the groin, thigh, or buttock that initially occurs with weight-bearing activities and progresses to pain at rest.
  • Limited Range of Motion: Stiffness and reduced movement in the hip joint.
  • Limping: A noticeable limp due to pain and weakness in the hip.
  • Progressive Disability: Increasing difficulty with activities of daily living as the condition worsens.


Diagnosis involves a combination of clinical evaluation and imaging studies:

  • Medical History and Physical Examination: Assessment of symptoms, risk factors, and physical examination to check for pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion.
  • Imaging Studies:
    • X-rays: Can show changes in the bone structure in advanced stages of AVN.
    • MRI: The most sensitive test for early detection, showing changes in the bone marrow and identifying areas of necrosis.
    • Bone Scan: Can detect changes in bone metabolism and blood flow.


Treatment for avascular necrosis of the hip depends on the stage of the disease and the severity of symptoms. Options include:

  • Non-Surgical Treatment:

    • Medications: Pain relievers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and bisphosphonates to slow bone damage.
    • Reduced Weight Bearing: Using crutches or a cane to reduce stress on the hip joint.
    • Physical Therapy: Exercises to maintain joint function and muscle strength.
    • Electrical Stimulation: To promote bone growth and healing.
  • Surgical Treatment:

    • Core Decompression: Removing part of the inner bone to reduce pressure and create channels for new blood vessels to nourish the affected area.
    • Bone Grafting: Transplanting healthy bone tissue to the necrotic area to promote healing.
    • Osteotomy: Realigning the bone to reduce stress on the affected area.
    • Hip Resurfacing: Replacing the damaged surface of the femoral head with a metal cap.
    • Total Hip Replacement: Replacing the damaged hip joint with an artificial one in advanced cases.


The prognosis for avascular necrosis of the hip varies depending on the stage at diagnosis and the effectiveness of treatment. Early detection and treatment can slow disease progression and preserve joint function. In advanced cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to restore mobility and relieve pain.


Preventing avascular necrosis involves addressing risk factors and maintaining joint health:

  • Manage Risk Factors: Controlling conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood disorders.
  • Limit Alcohol Use: Reducing alcohol consumption to lower the risk of AVN.
  • Corticosteroid Use: Using the lowest effective dose of corticosteroids for the shortest duration possible.
  • Healthy Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and a balanced diet to support bone health.


Avascular necrosis of the hip is a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention to prevent joint damage and disability. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial for preserving hip function and improving quality of life. If you experience persistent hip pain or difficulty with movement, consult a healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation and personalized treatment plan.