The problem you describe is called osteonecrosis or avascular necrosis. It is a condition ususally of a large joint such as a hip, knee or shoulder in which blood supply is compromised to the bone and the bone dies. The most common cause of osteonecrosis of the hip is after a hip fracture. However, there are certain medical problems that also cause the condition including problems with excessive blood clotting, sickle cell anemia and other blood disorders. A rheumatic condition called vasculitis can occasionally be a cause as well. High does of prednisone for long periods of time are also associated with osteonecrosis. Unfortuantely many patients requrie joint replacement. If the osteoncrosis is very early a surgical procedure called core decompression can sometimes save the joint.
About Alan Matsumoto, M.D.
Part-time Faculty, Division of Rheumatology
Johns Hopkins University