Is there a test for osteonecrosis?

If your doctor suspects you have osteonecrosis, he or she may take your medical history and do a physical exam.

Your doctor may also order the following imaging tests to see which bones are affected and to view the bone or joint damage:

  • X-ray.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan.

How is osteonecrosis treated?

The goal of treatment is to keep the joint working for as long as possible. In some cases, the bone may heal on its own, and your doctor may recommend nonsurgical treatment options. But in most cases, treatment involves surgery.

Nonsurgical treatment options include:

  • Medicines, to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Physical therapy, to help decrease joint tenderness and stiffness, and to increase the joint’s range of motion.
  • Use of a cane or crutches, to provide support and help relieve pain and weakness when walking.

Most people with osteonecrosis eventually need surgery to repair the bone as the disease gets worse. Eventually, you may need joint replacement surgery.

Who treats osteonecrosis?

Osteonecrosis is usually treated by:

  • Orthopaedic surgeons, who specialize in treatment and surgery for bone and joint diseases.
  • Mental health professionals, who provide counseling and treat mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Occupational therapists, who teach ways to protect joints, minimize pain, perform activities of daily living, and conserve energy.
  • Physical therapists, who can help strengthen your muscles and improve joint function.
  • Primary care doctors, such as a family physician or internal medicine specialist, who coordinates care between the different health providers and treats other problems as they arise. Primary care doctors can provide nonsurgical treatment for osteonecrosis.
  • Rheumatologists, who specialize in arthritis and other diseases of the bones, joints, and muscles and can provide nonsurgical care for osteonecrosis.

Living with osteonecrosis

Having a painful disease like osteonecrosis can be hard, but you can do the following to help cope with the disease:

  • Talk to your doctor about the types of exercises that are best for you, as well as activities or exercises you should avoid.
  • Care for your joints by using cold packs to ease swelling and numb pain. Heat treatments, such as hot showers or heating pads, help soothe stiff joints and muscles.
  • If you experience emotional or mental health problems, consider seeking help from a mental health professional or joining a support group, which can help you learn more about coping and living with the disease.

Remember to follow the recommendations of your health care providers.