What Is the Process for Treating Osteonecrosis of the Knee?

The treatment process for osteonecrosis of the knee includes pain medication, use of a brace, exercises and activity modifications in the early stages, according to OrthoInfo. In more advanced stages, surgical treatment may be necessary.

If the bone area affected by osteonecrosis is small, patients may only require conservative treatment, explains OrthoInfo. Medications and activity modifications can help reduce pain, and a brace can relieve pressure from the surface of the knee joint. A strengthening program to condition the thigh muscles may also be helpful. Other treatment options for early osteonecrosis, also known as stage I, include the use of crutches to prevent collapse of the weakened knee and the use of bisphosphonates to possibly prevent further bone weakening, notes the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Surgical treatment may be necessary if osteonecrosis affects more than half of the bone surface, reports OrthoInfo. Options include arthroscopic cleansing, surgeries that take weight off the joint and drilling of the bone surface to relieve pressure. For older patients, partial or total knee replacement is a more common surgical procedure, according to the Hospital for Special Surgery. Doctors consider surgical options if conservative treatments have already failed and the joint has collapsed or progressed to osteoarthritis.