What Is Osteolysis: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Osteolysis?

Osteolysis is a pathological condition that generally arises after an individual has undergone a joint replacement procedure. In majority of the cases, an individual who undergoes a joint replacement procedure does not have any complications arise postsurgery.

In some cases, however, what happens is that some debris which comes out from the material of the implants breaking down and starts to accumulate in the surrounding tissues.

This triggers an inflammatory reaction within the body which gradually starts to destroy the bones and loosens the implant causing pain and restricted movement of the implant which may in turn require revision surgery. This condition is what is termed as Osteolysis.

What is Osteolysis?

What are the Risk Factors for Osteolysis?

Some of the risk factors for Osteolysis are:

  • Abnormal bone growths in the form of cysts or tumors which may cause bone loss and give rise to Osteolysis
  • The implants used for replacement procedure may itself trigger an inflammatory reaction from the body which may result in wearing away of the bones causing Osteolysis.
  • If an individual has presurgical conditions like arthritis or other infections it may increase the risk postsurgery of the individual having Osteolysis.

What are the Symptoms of Osteolysis?

Osteolysis unfortunately does not produce any symptoms until there is sufficient damage done to the implant in which case there will be pain with any movement involving the implant and reduced motion of the implant due to Osteolysis.

How is the Cause of Osteolysis Diagnosed?

If an individual has a previous history of infection or arthritis then the chances of Osteolysis are extremely high. If the individual is experiencing problems with the implant then the physician will take radiological studies in the form of x-rays, MRI or CT scans to look at the internal structures of the bones and ligaments surrounding the implant to get a better idea as to what is causing the Osteolysis and breakdown of the implant.

These studies will also rule in or out cancer as a cause of Osteolysis. If cancer is suspected as a cause of Osteolysis then a biopsy may also be done of the bone to confirmatively diagnose cancer as a cause of Osteolysis. Additionally, a PET scan may be done which will clearly show bone breakdown or spread of cancer, if present, to the bones causing Osteolysis.

How is Osteolysis Treated?

The treatment for Osteolysis depends on the cause of Osteolysis. If Osteolysis is caused due to an indwelling infection then medications may be prescribed to treat the infection along with NSAIDs to calm down the pain and inflammation.

If medications do not provide any relief to the patient and the discomfort increases and there is fracture identified then surgery may be required to fix the fracture and even revise the implant or in some cases replace the implant completely with a new one top treat Osteolysis.

It is highly recommended once an individual has been diagnosed with Osteolysis to be diligent with physician followups and taking the medications as advised by the physician. The individual may need to have periodic x-rays and other imaging studies to look at the status of the implant and the bones surrounding it to check for any chances of Osteolysis.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 3, 2018

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