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My 66-year old father fell and broke his hip. He was drinking at the time the accident happened. The doctors think the hip broke first and then he fell because he has osteonecrosis. What is this?


The term osteonecrosis refers to the death of bone and bone marrow. This occurs when there’s a loss of blood flow to the area. Two other terms for this condition are: avascular necrosis and aseptic necrosis. Avascular means “without blood” and aseptic means “without infection.” Alcohol abuse leads to a change in how fat is broken down and used. This process is called fat metabolism. Tiny pieces of fat can break off like a blood clot and block the blood vessel. This is what happens in the case of osteonecrosis from alcoholism. Once the blood flow to the hip is cut off, bone cells start to die. The bone weakens and collapses or breaks. A fall or other injury may be the first sign there’s a problem. Young-Hoo Kim, MD, et al. Contemporary Total Hip Arthroplasty with and without Cement in Patients with Osteonecrosis of the Femoral Head. In The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. April 2003. Vol. 85-A. No. 4. Pp. 675-681.

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