Avascular necrosis is cellular death of bone resulting from a temporary or permanent loss of blood supply to that bone. Avascular necrosis may occur in a variety of medical conditions, some of which have an etiology that is less than clear.
A typical site for avascular necrosis is a fracture across the femoral neck in an elderly patient. In these patients there is loss of continuity of the cortical medullary blood flow with loss of blood flow deep to the retinacular fibers. This essentially renders the femoral head bloodless; it subsequently undergoes sclerosis and collapse. In these patients it is necessary to replace the femoral head with a prosthesis