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With disease progression, avascular necrosis (AVN) of the femoral head may lead to a collapse of the articular surface. The exact pathophysiology of AVN remains unclear, although several conditions are known that can result in spontaneous cell death, leading to a reduction of trabecular bone and the development of AVN. Hip AVN treatment is stage-dependent in which two main stages of the disease can be distinguished: pre-collapse (ARCO 0-II) and post-collapse stage (ARCO III-IV, crescent sign). In the pre-collapse phase, core decompression (CD), with or without the addition of bone marrow (e.g. bone marrow aspirate concentrate, BMAC) or bone graft, is a common treatment alternative. In the postcollapse phase, THA (total hip arthroplasty) must be performed in most of the patients. In addition to surgical treatment, the intravenous application of Iloprost has been shown to have a curative potential and analgesic effect. From October 2009 to October 2014, 49 patients with AVN (stages I-III) were treated with core decompression at our institution. All patients were divided into group A (CD + BMAC) and group B (CD alone). Of these patients, 20 were included in a matched pair analysis. The patients were matched to age, gender, ARCO-stage, Kerboul combined necrotic angle, the cause of AVN, and whether Iloprost-therapy was performed. The Merle d’Aubigné Score and the Kerboul combined necrotic angle in a-p and lateral radiographs were evaluated pre- and postoperatively. The primary endpoint was a total hip arthroplasty. In group A, two patients needed THA while in group B four patients were treated with THA. In group A, the Merle d’Aubigné Score improved from 13.5 (pre-operatively) to 15.3 (postoperatively). In group B there was no difference between the pre- (14.3) and postoperative (14.1) assessment. The mean of the Kerboul angle showed no difference in both groups compared pre- to postoperatively (group A: pre-op 212°, postop 220°, group B: pre-op 213, postop 222°). Regarding radiographic evaluation, the interobserver variability revealed a moderate agreement between two raters regarding the pre- (ICC 0.594) and postoperative analysis (ICC 0.604).This study demonstrates that CD in combination with the application of autologous bone marrow aspirate concentrate into the femoral head seems to be a safe and efficient treatment alternative in the early stages of AVN of the femoral head when compared to CD alone.
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