Though the lockdown restrictions are being slowly lifted and normal life is limping back to normalcy, let us agree that second wave of coronavirus is far from over. Significant number of cases are still being reported and doctors besides treating coronavirus patients are also quite worried about the long-term complications that are being found in the patients, on the path to recovery.
One of the major complications that shocked the medical fraternity in the last few days is Avascular Necrosis or Bone Death. As the name suggests avascular necrosis defines the death of bone tissue. Also referred as Osteonecrosis, this condition is caused due to temporary or permanent loss of blood supply to the bone, eventually causing the death of bone tissue, tiny breaks in the bones and making it collapse.
Avascular necrosis can happen in any bone or multiple bones at the same time, but it often attacks the ends or joints of the longer bones, collapsing the surfaces.
What Is Causing Bone Death In COVID-19 Patients?
One of the main reasons suspected by doctors in what’s actually causing bone death in COVID-19 recovery patients, is indiscriminatory use of steroids. Experts believe that steroids in few patients can soften the cartilage, reducing blood supply causing eventual death of the bones.
Are All COVID-19 Patients At The Risk of Bone Death?
India has so far reported very few cases of bone death, but doctors are concerned that more such instances can occur as it takes 3 months to 1 year for the Avascular Necrosis to happen, in patients recovering from Coronavirus. In case if you were Corona positive but not treated with steroids do not worry about bone death.
What Are The Other Causes For Avascular Necrosis?
Bone death is often reported in normal, healthy individuals between the age of 30 to 50. These are the risk factors that can cause this bone malfunction.
- Severe injury to the bones due to trauma
- Damage to the blood vessels
- Long-term use of corticosteroids
- Sickle cell anaemia
- Chemotherapy and radiation
- Autoimmune Diseases
What Are The Symptoms of Avascular Necrosis?
This condition presents with different symptoms in individual patients. The most commonly reported complications are:
- Minimal or frequent pain in the joints
- Severe joint pain and collapse of surfaces
- Restricted movement, inability to walk and do regular chores
How Is Avascular Necrosis Diagnosed?
If you are on the path to recovery from Covid-19 and were put on high dosage of steroids, experiencing frequent pain in the bones, joints, see your doctor immediately. An early diagnosis will save the bone and can be treated with medications.
Your doctor might run a battery of tests including X-rays, CT Scan of the bones, MRI, bone density test Radionuclide bone scan for diagnosing the condition. In case of cancer survivors or those suffering from severe symptoms, doctors may recommend a biopsy, functional evaluation of bone to assess the strength and pressure inside the bone to decide on the course of treatment.
How Is Avascular Necrosis Treated?
Doctors particularly in case of patients with long Covid symptoms would recommend medications, physiotherapy for at least 6 weeks to alleviate the suffering. Patients may have to use non-inflammatory drugs, statins in case of high levels of cholesterol and fatty deposits obstructing the blood flow, blood thinners.In case of advanced stage, a surgery is the only option. The surgical options include core decompression of the bone, reshaping of the bone, bone transplant, joint replacement.