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Anatomy of the Shoulder Joint

To comprehend avascular necrosis, it’s essential to understand the shoulder joint’s anatomy. The shoulder is a highly complex and mobile joint composed of three primary bones: the humerus (upper arm bone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collarbone).

These bones work in concert with muscles, tendons, and ligaments to facilitate a wide range of motion. The joint itself is covered by articular cartilage, which allows for smooth and pain-free movement.

Causes and Risk Factors

Avascular necrosis can result from various factors that compromise blood flow to the bone. Common causes and risk factors include:

  • Trauma: Fractures or dislocations of the shoulder can damage blood vessels, leading to reduced blood flow.
  • Steroid Use: Prolonged use of corticosteroids is linked to increased risk of AVN due to its impact on blood vessels.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Chronic alcohol use can interfere with blood flow and bone health.
  • Medical Conditions: Diseases such as sickle cell anemia, lupus, and decompression sickness can lead to AVN.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation treatment for cancer can damage blood vessels and increase AVN risk.


The symptoms of avascular necrosis of the shoulder may develop gradually. Common signs include:

  • Persistent shoulder pain that worsens with activity or when lifting the arm
  • Reduced range of motion and shoulder stiffness
  • Swelling around the shoulder joint
  • Weakness in the shoulder, making it difficult to perform daily activities

Diagnostic Process

Diagnosing AVN involves a thorough medical evaluation. At Excel Health, we use the following methods:

  • Physical Examination: Assessing shoulder pain, range of motion, and tenderness.
  • Imaging Tests: X-rays, MRI, or CT scans to detect changes in the bone structure and blood supply.
  • Bone Scan: A specialized imaging test to identify areas of decreased blood flow.

Treatment Options

Conservative Care

Initial treatment for avascular necrosis often involves non-surgical methods aimed at managing symptoms and preventing further joint damage:

  • Medications: Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Physical Therapy: Exercises to improve shoulder strength and flexibility.
  • Activity Modification: Avoiding activities that exacerbate symptoms.
  • Assistive Devices: Using braces or slings to support the shoulder joint.

Surgical Treatment

When conservative treatments are insufficient, surgery may be necessary. At Excel Health, we offer advanced surgical options tailored to each patient’s needs:

  • Core Decompression: Removing a portion of the inner bone to relieve pressure and improve blood flow.
  • Bone Grafting: Transplanting healthy bone tissue to support the damaged area.
  • Shoulder Replacement: Replacing the damaged joint with an artificial implant in severe cases.

Our surgical team at Excel Health prioritizes patient well-being, using the latest techniques to ensure optimal outcomes and a swift recovery.

Living with Avascular Necrosis

Living with avascular necrosis of the shoulder can be challenging, but with appropriate treatment and lifestyle adjustments, many people manage their symptoms effectively. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and following your doctor’s recommendations can help preserve shoulder function and quality of life.

If you experience symptoms of avascular necrosis, contact Excel Health for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized treatment plan. Our dedicated team is here to support you every step of the way.

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