Osteonecrosis of the femoral head usually affects young individuals and is responsible for up to 12% of total hip arthroplasties. The underlying pathophysiology of the death of the bone cells remains uncertain. We have investigated nitric oxide mediated apoptosis as a potential mechanism and found that steroid- and alcohol-induced osteonecrosis is accompanied by widespread apoptosis of osteoblasts and osteocytes. Certain drugs or their metabolites may have a direct cytotoxic effect on cancellous bone of the femoral head leading to apoptosis rather than purely necrosis.
- Received August 4, 2003.
- Accepted January 15, 2004.
- © 2004 British Editorial Society of Bone and Joint Surgery