Osteolysis is the wearing down of your bones. Your bones become thin and weak.

What increases my risk for osteolysis?

The following are the most common risk factors for osteolysis:

  • Bone growths such as cysts or cancers can cause bone loss or abnormal bone growth.
  • Joint prosthetics (materials used for joint replacement) may cause your body to attack bone cells. Prosthetics can also prevent your body from making new bone.
  • Conditions, such as arthritis, infections, or periodontal disease can cause swelling and pressure that lead to bone loss.

What are the signs and symptoms of osteolysis?

There are no symptoms of osteolysis. Pain happens as osteolysis begins to affect tissue around or your bones, or your bones break.

How is osteolysis diagnosed?

Tell your healthcare provider if you have a medical condition, or if you have had joint surgery. Your healthcare provider will check your joints and bones. You may need blood tests, and one or more of the following:

  • A bone biopsy is used to test samples of bone. This may show if your osteolysis is caused by cancer cells. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about a bone biopsy.
  • An x-ray takes pictures of your bones and the tissue around your bones. The pictures show thin bones and any breaks in your bones. More than one x-ray may be taken over time.
  • A CT scan is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine takes pictures of your bones, and bone marrow. The pictures may show if your bones are thin or if you have a tumor. You may be given contrast dye before the pictures are taken. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • An MRI takes pictures of your bones and ligaments and tendons. You may be given dye before the pictures are taken to help healthcare providers see the pictures better. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell your healthcare provider if you have any metal on your body.
  • A PET scan can show any breakdown of bone, or if cancer has spread to your bones.

How is osteolysis treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of your osteolysis. You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to decrease pain and inflammation. You may also be given medicines that help your body make new bone cells faster.
  • Surgery to repair breaks in your bones, replace joint replacement hardware.

What can I do to manage osteolysis and prevent fractures?

  • Keep follow-up appointments. You may need to visit your healthcare provider often if you have had surgery to replace a damaged joint. Your healthcare provider may do x-rays and other tests to check your bones and your implant. You will need follow-up appointments to see if your osteolysis is getting worse, even if you have not had surgery.
  • Take medicines as ordered by your healthcare provider. Ask your healthcare provider for information about the medicines he orders. You may not be able to take those medicines with certain medicines you already take.
  • Exercise safely. Talk to healthcare providers about the right exercise plan for you. Ask your healthcare provider about exercises and sports you can do safely. You may not be able to play contact sports. Contact sports increase your risk for broken bones.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You feel pain in your chest, back, hips, groin, knees, or legs with sudden movement, or while resting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe joint pain that does not decrease or go away after you use pain medicine.
  • You are not able to move the joints that are causing pain.