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  • When one or more areas of a bone wear out and get thin, it is called osteolysis. Osteolysis happens most often to the bones of the hip, leg, rib, spine, and thigh. Normally, old bone cells are replaced with new bone cells over time. Osteolysis occurs when there are not enough new bone cells being made to replace old bone cells. This condition may slowly get worse over time. Osteolysis weakens bones, and may cause holes to form in them. Osteolysis can be caused by diseases, such as psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis. It can also come after joint (hip or knee) replacement surgery.
  • You may not have any signs or symptoms of osteolysis. In some cases, you may have pain, swelling, or numbness in a body area. To learn if you have osteolysis, caregivers may do tests such as x-rays. You may not need any treatment for osteolysis. If treatment is needed, you may need to take medicine or have surgery. Treatment can help decrease pain and other symptoms. In some cases, treatment can help your bones heal or prevent more bone damage.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


  • Medicine to treat osteolysis may cause headaches, dizziness, nausea (upset stomach) and muscle and bone pain. With surgery, you may bleed too much, or get an infection. You may have an allergic reaction or infection if cement is used during surgery. Tissues or nerves near the area of surgery may get damaged. If nerves are hurt, you may lose feeling or have trouble moving certain body parts.
  • If osteolysis is not treated when treatment is needed, your bones may get weaker, and they may break. If you have an implant, it may also break. Nerves may be squeezed in between broken bones, causing pain or numbness. If cancer has spread to your bone, it may spread to other areas of your body. Osteolysis may cause problems with joint implants. This can result in pain during sports and activities. The implant may also feel loose and unstable. You may need surgery to fix or replace the implant. If myeloma has caused your osteolysis, the damage to your bones will still be there, even after the myeloma has been treated.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

An IV (intravenous)

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.


You may be given the following medicines:

  • Pain medicine: This medicine may be used to help decrease or take away your pain.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine: This type of medicine is also called NSAIDs. NSAIDs may help decrease joint pain and swelling. This medicine can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people.
  • Steroids: Steroids may be given to decrease joint pain and swelling.
  • Biphosphonates: This type of medicine may help prevent osteolysis by making new bone cells form faster. You may be given biphosphonates if your bone loss is caused by myeloma. You may also be given this medicine if you have had total joint replacement surgery.


  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • X-rays: Pictures of your bones and tissue in your joint are taken during this test. The pictures show thin bones and fractures (bone breaks).
  • Computed tomography scan: This is also called a CT scan. This special x-ray machine takes pictures of your bones and bone marrow (tissue inside bones). A CT scan will show thin bones in your body. You may be given dye through an IV before pictures are taken. The dye will help your caregiver see the pictures more clearly. People who are allergic to shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp) may be allergic to some dyes. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to shellfish.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging: This test is also called an MRI. During the MRI, pictures of your bones are taken. You will need to lie very still during the test. Never enter the MRI room with an oxygen tank, watch, or any other metal objects. This can cause serious injury.
  • Positron emission tomography scan: This test is also called a PET scan. A PET scan shows areas where you have osteolysis. If you have cancer, this test can also show if the cancer has spread to your bones.
  • Biopsy: During a biopsy, a sample of your bone tissue is removed and sent to a lab for tests. This may show if your osteolysis is caused by cancer cells. Ask your caregiver for more information about having a bone biopsy.

Treatment options:

  • Fracture repair: You may need surgery if you have a broken bone. You may also need surgery if your bone is thin or weak. During surgery, rods may be placed to hold together broken leg bones. Holes caused by osteolysis may be filled with crushed bone or bone-like tissue.
  • Joint replacement: You may need surgery to replace your hip or knee. If you have a joint implant that has loosened, part or all of the implant may need to be replaced.
  • Vertebroplasty: You may need a vertebroplasty if your vertebrae (bones of your spine) have been damaged. During this surgery, bone cement is placed into weak or broken vertebrae. This surgery may decrease your pain, allow you to be more active, and help you to stay at your normal height.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Osteolysis (Inpatient Care)

Micromedex® Care Notes