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Bone infarction is a severe condition in which a section of bone dies due to a lack of blood supply. While the reasons may vary, they can seriously affect your health. This blog post will discuss the causes, the risk factors, and how to diagnose and treat the condition. Read on to learn everything about bone infarction:

What is a bone infarction?

Bone infarction, or avascular necrosis (AVN), is a condition in which one or more body bones experience localized death. Typically, the cause is a lack of blood supply. However, the latter may trigger by certain medications, excessive drinking or smoking, physical trauma, systemic lupus erythematosus, or Gaucher disease. When bone infarction occurs, the affected bone will no longer receive oxygen or other essential nutrients, resulting in cell death.

In some cases, new blood vessels form around the affected area to bring in more oxygen and nutrients. The bone may then start to regenerate and produce new cells. This is known as granulation tissue, which can help repair the damage done by the infarction. However, this process may not happen if left untreated, and the affected bone may become necrotic or dead. In severe cases, the bone may need to be replaced through surgery.

What are the risk factors for developing a bone infarction?

  • Low bone marrow density: Low bone marrow density can make it more difficult for oxygenated blood to reach the bone, increasing the risk of bone infarction.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing a bone infarction due to poor circulation in their extremities.
  • Systemic lupus: People with systemic lupus are more likely to develop a bone infarction due to the autoimmune disorder’s effects on blood vessel walls.
  • Gaucher disease: Gaucher disease affects the spleen, liver, and bones and is associated with an increased risk of bone infarction.
  • Age: Older adults are more likely to develop a bone infarction due to decreased blood flow to the bones.
  • Trauma: Bone infarctions can occur after physical trauma or injury to the affected area.
  • Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis refers to narrowing arteries due to plaque buildup, which can reduce blood flow to the bones and increase the risk of a bone infarction.
  • Drug abuse: Abuse of certain drugs can cause poor circulation in the body, increasing the risk of bone infarction.

How to diagnose bone infarction?

Usually, diagnosing infarction does not require special equipment. However, a few methods can verify the condition with firm accuracy.

Physical examination

The first step is usually a physical examination of the affected bone. This procedure can help identify areas that may be experiencing increased pain, tenderness, visible swelling, or discoloration. Sometimes, a doctor may order an X-ray or other imaging test to confirm the diagnosis.

Bone scan

Another way to diagnose such a case is through a bone scan. This test involves injecting a radioactive tracer into the bloodstream and then imaging the. If an area of necrosis (dead tissue) is present, this will appear as a “cold spot” on the scan. Usually, such a result indicates the presence of the condition.


Finally, a biopsy confirms the diagnosis of a bone infarction. During this procedure, a tissue sample from the affected bone is examined under a microscope for signs of necrosis. This can help to rule out other causes of bone pain, such as infection or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), as well as other conditions.

Medical tests

Sometimes, your doctor may order blood tests and other medical tests to rule out any underlying causes. These tests can also help determine if any other risk factors present could increase your chances of developing the condition in the future.

What are the treatment options for a bone infarction?

The treatment for a bone infarction depends on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause. In most cases, treatment focuses on relieving pain, reducing inflammation, and restoring blood supply to the affected bone.

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): A standard solution for inflammation and pain reduction, medications like anticoagulants and thrombolytics can restore blood flow to the affected area.
  • Surgery: Sometimes, medical experts conduct surgeries to remove dead or damaged tissue or repair any bone damage.
  • Physical therapy: Range-of-motion exercises, stretching, and strengthening exercises can help improve blood circulation and the overall movement of the affected area.
  • Depending on the underlying cause, additional medications such as antibiotics may be necessary to prevent infection and promote healing.
  • Change in lifestyle: To reduce the risk of future complications, patients often must avoid strenuous physical activity, maintain a healthy weight, and quit smoking.

What are the complications that can arise from a bone infarction?

A bone infarction can cause many complications, ranging from minor to severe. Typically, depriving the bone of oxygen and nutrients causes the tissue to die. Consequently, the latter starts transforming into granulation tissue and sometimes a cyst.

Other complications include bone necrosis, further infections, or systemic lupus erythematosus. In some cases, the condition can also lead to Gaucher disease, a genetic disorder where fatty deposits accumulate in the liver, spleen, and other organs.