Core Decompression for Avascular Necrosis (AVN)


What is avascular necrosis?

Avascular necrosis (AVN) of the hip is a painful condition that occurs when there is a disruption of the blood supply to the head of the femur. AVN can ultimately lead to destruction of the hip joint and severe arthritis.

Although conservative measures may help relieve pain and slow the progression of the disease, the most successful treatment options are surgical. Patients with early AVN are typically candidates for hip-preserving procedures, such as a core decompression and bone grafting. If the disease is in its later stages, the most effective treatment is usually a total hip replacement.


What is a core decompression?  

Core decompression is a surgical procedure that involves drilling into the center of the dead bone to reduce pain, and create extra space within your bone to stimulate the production of healthy bone tissue and new blood vessels. Before a core decompression is performed, Dr. Potts will order an MRI of the affected joint to help identify the areas of dead bone that need removal.

Core decompressions are often combined with bone and cartilage grafting to help regenerate healthy bone and support the hip’s cartilage.  In patients with stage 1 or stage 2 AVN, core decompression combined with bone grafting can prevent the progression to severe arthritis and loss of function. When AVN is diagnosed in its later stages (after collapse of the femoral head), core decompression is not usually successful in preventing further damage and patients are best treated by replacing the joint.