If you’ve ever broken a bone, the worst issue you have is being in a cast for a few weeks, right? Unfortunately, that’s just not true. A broken bone may lead to several other complications, including decreased blood supply to the affected bone. The result is avascular necrosis, or the death of bone tissue, which is a much bigger issue.
Dr. Jeffrey McAlister is a fellowship trained surgeon who specializes in conditions that affect your feet and ankles, one of which is avascular necrosis. He leads the expert team at Phoenix Foot and Ankle Institute to help you get the specialized treatment you need to regain your mobility.
Avascular necrosis, also known as osteonecrosis, is a condition that causes the death of bone tissue due to lack of a healthy blood supply. Without a constant supply of nutrient-rich blood, your bone isn’t able to rebuild itself, which leads to small breaks and eventually bone death.
In a healthy person, bones are continually rebuilding themselves. When tissue breaks down, your body and bones work around the clock to rebuild healthy tissue. However, if your bones aren’t receiving enough blood, they aren’t able to keep up with the amount of tissue deterioration.
So why do you have decreased blood flow to your bones? There are a few different reasons you might be lacking an adequate blood supply, which include:
Chronic, high dose use of corticosteroids is another cause of avascular necrosis. This is due to the possible increase in lipid levels that can occur with long-term steroid use. Higher lipid levels can impede blood flow to your bones.
Long-term excessive alcohol intake is yet another factor that plays into avascular necrosis. High amounts of alcohol on a regular basis may form fatty deposits in your vessels, impacting normal blood flow.
Knowing your risk for avascular necrosis is only half the battle — understanding the symptoms is a key component to knowing when you need treatment.
Avascular necrosis isn’t a fast-moving disease; in fact, it develops rather slowly. In the beginning stages of this condition, you might not have any symptoms at all. However, as the condition progresses, more signs develop.
In many cases, the first sign of a problem is pain in one of your joints, such as your ankle. The pain is sometimes severe and may come and go.
But as the disease progresses, the pain in your joint often becomes worse and more persistent. It could hurt when you put your weight on the joint, or even when you sit down.
When avascular necrosis gets to the point where the bones are so damaged that your joint collapses, the pain may be debilitating. You also won’t be able to move the joint, not only due to the pain, but due to the damage to the bones as well.
Any sign of pain in your foot or ankle, no matter how severe, is a good indication that it’s time to seek treatment from Dr. McAlister and his team.
To properly diagnose you with avascular necrosis, Dr. McAlister uses imaging such as an MRI or X-ray to see the damage to your joint. Once he determines you’re dealing with avascular necrosis, he uses a number of different treatment strategies to stop more damage from occurring. These treatments include:
If you’re in the early stages of the disease, Dr. McAlister may recommend treatments like rest, physical therapy, or NSAID medications. However, more advanced disease may require more invasive treatment.
This procedure uses healthy bone that’s harvested from another area of your body to give the damaged bone strength and stability.
When other measures don’t work and your joint has collapsed, Dr. McAlister often recommends a joint replacement. In this procedure, he removes damaged areas of your joint and replaces those areas with prosthetics. The prosthetics reshape your joint so you regain range of motion.
Dr. McAlister may also opt for a joint fusion to give the damaged bones stability and decrease the chances of more bone damage.
Dr. McAlister may also opt to use platelet-rich plasma therapy along with other treatments to help stimulate your body to heal itself. PRP contains proteins that stimulate the growth of new tissue. It can be injected into the area of concern to activate your body’s own healing properties.
Don’t continue to let your bone deteriorate. If something seems off, call us at 602-761-7819 to schedule a consultation with Dr. McAlister, or book an appointment online with us today.