This is seen in younger people who took high doses of steroids as part of treatment. Health experts said cases are likely to increase in the coming months, as symptoms would develop only three months after recovery from the pandemic.
Avascular necrosis is a condition where there is blockage of blood vessels that leads to death of bone cells. It usually occurs in those who consume alcohol excessively, and smoking makes them more vulnerable. Also, women who have smaller and thinner bones, nearing menopause and who survived COVID may also be vulnerable to it, doctors said.
“Nowadays, we are not receiving normal flow of patients with avascular necrosis. Instead, we are witnessing an increase in the number of cases among COVID survivors. When patients get pain in the body, hip or knee, they visit a general physician thinking it is a common post-COVID side-effect. But, it is recommended to visit an orthopaedic surgeon for treatment. However, many doctors take X-ray instead of MRI scan. But dead bone cells can’t be identified in X-ray,” said Dr Dilip Chand Raja S, bone, joint and spine surgeon, Fortis Hospital.
The condition is treatable when diagnosed at an early stage. But the failure to diagnose it early would lead to the death of bone tissues, which would then require a total hip replacement, he added. Experts added that some of the patients who were administered steroids as part of COVID treatment would develop symptoms like joint pain in a particular area, pain in groin, thigh or knee. Some of them develop minor issues like limping or being unable to sit cross-legged. “It is predominately found among those aged between 30 – 50 years. Surprisingly, we have not seen any increase among the number of senior citizen patients.
Hospitals can expect a higher number of cases in the coming days because though some develop the symptoms in a month after recovering, it mostly becomes evident only after three to six months,” said Dr Kesavan AR, senior consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Gleneagles Global Health City.