What Is Avascular Necrosis? (AVN)

Avascular necrosis is a condition in which bone tissue dies from a lack of blood supply. If it goes untreated, it can lead to tiny breaks in the bone and eventual collapse. It can also change the shape of the bones and joints and lead to severe arthritis. Avascular necrosis can affect anyone at any age, but it is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 50.

Causes of Avascular Necrosis

Avascular necrosis can be caused by a number of things, the most common being trauma to the bones or the joints. Dislocated joints and broken bones can damage blood vessels and reduce the blood flow to the affected section of bone, while certain cancer treatments can weaken bones and cause similar damage to blood vessels. Fatty deposits in blood vessels or diseases such as sickle cell anemia and Gaucher's disease can also restrict the flow of blood to bones. In some cases, the cause of the interrupted blood flow is unknown.

Risk Factors

Avascular necrosis is usually associated with trauma when a cause can be found at all. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of developing this condition. These include:

  • Use of corticosteroids such as prednisone. This has increasingly been seen in patients treated for Covid-19 with high dose steriods.
  • Excessive alcohol use over a period of several years
  • Long-term use of medications that increase bone density, which is often the cause of osteonecrosis of the jaw but can also cause necrosis of the hip.
  • Certain diseases have also been tied to avascular necrosis. We've already discussed cancer, sickle cell anemia, and Gaucher's disease, but pancreatitis, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and systemic lupus erythematosus have also been associated with avascular necrosis.

    Symptoms of Avascular Necrosis

    Many people experience no symptoms in the earliest stages of avascular necrosis. As the condition gets worse, you might feel pain in the affected joint whenever you put weight on it. This pain often develops gradually and can be mild or severe. Eventually, you will feel the pain at all times, even when you're lying down.

    If you have avascular necrosis of the hip, you'll likely feel pain in the groin, thigh, and buttocks. The condition usually only affects one side of the body, but it can affect both hips at once.

    When to See Your Doctor

    You should see your doctor whenever you experience joint pain that doesn't get better or worsens with time. Treatment through surgery, physical therapy, and pain-relieving medications such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen can all be effective, depending on the severity.


    If you are experiencing hip pain that could be caused by avascular necrosis, Matthew D. Barber M.D. will be able to help you. Dr. Barber serves patients in Mobile, AL and the surrounding areas, and his staff will be able to answer any questions you might have about your joint pain and help you find the treatment that can assist in your recovery.