Avascular Necrosis (AVN) Treatment: What to Expect

Avascular Necrosis (AVN) Treatment: What to Expect

Bones are the body's framework, meeting together to form joints that aid in movement and mobility. Your bones are constantly breaking down and rebuilding in a process known as remodeling.

For remodeling to happen, the bones need a healthy blood supply. If the blood supply is weak to your foot or ankle, you may develop avascular necrosis.

Avascular necrosis is a severe condition that may lead to the collapse of your ankle joints, so early diagnosis and treatment are necessary.

Dr. Jeffrey E. McAlister and the team at Phoenix Foot and Ankle Institute provide you with avascular necrosis treatment. Dr. McAlister is an experienced foot and ankle specialist with years of experience in cutting-edge foot and ankle treatments for various conditions.

Understanding avascular necrosis

Your bones constantly change and remodel, building new bone to replace the old. Avascular necrosis happens when the blood supply to certain bones stops, preventing remodeling and leading to bone damage and destruction over time, as well as damaging surrounding joints and tissues.

Your ankles are common areas for avascular necrosis, especially after a traumatic injury. However, you can also have avascular necrosis with alcohol misuse, osteoporosis, or diabetes.

Diagnosing avascular necrosis

If Dr. McAlister suspects avascular necrosis of your foot or ankle, he moves quickly to get an accurate diagnosis to create a treatment plan.

The first step in a diagnosis is a detailed medical history of your symptoms and a physical exam of the affected foot and ankle. Dr. McAlister then orders imaging studies such as:

After thoroughly examining your foot and ankle and the imaging studies, Dr. McAlister comes to a diagnosis and creates a customized treatment plan based on your specific symptoms and degree of avascular necrosis.

What to expect from treatment

Dr. McAlister bases your treatment on several factors, including age, overall health, and the extent of the avascular necrosis in your foot and ankle. Other factors include the amount of bone loss and the underlying condition that caused the problem.

Dr. McAlister starts with conservative measures to ease discomfort, reduce bone loss, and improve joint functionality, if possible. He provides medications and assistive devices in mild-to-moderate cases.

However, if you're living with severe avascular necrosis, and your bones are collapsing, Dr. McAlister may recommend surgical procedures such as:

Core decompression

Dr. McAlister drills holes into the affected bone, creating a core that promotes blood flow to the area. He may also use bone grafting or regenerative medicine injections with a core decompression to promote optimal healing.


During an osteotomy, Dr. McAlister reshapes the affected bone to reduce pressure and stress, helping it heal appropriately after surgery.

Bone graft

If your bone is highly damaged, Dr. McAlister may need to use bone from another area of your body or donor bone to pack into the affected area. The new bone helps strengthen the affected bone and reduce further complications from avascular necrosis.

Joint replacement

In severe cases of avascular necrosis, Dr. McAlister suggests a joint replacement of your ankle. During this procedure, he removes the damaged areas of bone and replaces them with a prosthetic.

A joint replacement allows you to regain mobility and functionality in your joint. At the same time, the prosthetic stops bone loss and prevents the collapse of the ankle joint.

The main goals of avascular necrosis treatment are to slow down bone damage and improve function in your foot and ankle joints. Many people require surgery to achieve these goals, especially when the disease is severe.

If you're living with avascular necrosis and require expert treatment, call our team at 602-761-7819 to schedule a consultation with Dr. McAlister, or book an appointment on the website.

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