This study investigated risk factors for osteonecrosis involving multiple joints (MJON) among glucocorticoid-treated patients. The best predictor of MJON was cumulative oral glucocorticoid dose. Risk of MJON was 12-fold higher in patients who had a second risk factor for osteonecrosis. Further research is needed into strategies for prevention of MJON.
Osteonecrosis (ON) is a debilitating musculoskeletal condition in which bone cell death can lead to mechanical failure. When multiple joints are affected, pain and disability are compounded. Glucocorticoid treatment is one of the most common predisposing factors for ON. This study investigated risk factors for ON involving multiple joints (MJON) among glucocorticoid-treated patients.
Fifty-five adults with glucocorticoid-induced ON were prospectively enrolled. MJON was defined as ON in ≥ three joints. Route, dose, duration, and timing of glucocorticoid treatment were assessed.
Mean age of enrolled subjects was 44 years, 58% were women. Half had underlying conditions associated with increased ON risk: systemic lupus erythematosus (29%), acute lymphoblastic leukemia (11%), HIV (9%), and alcohol use (4%). Mean daily oral dose of glucocorticoids was 29 mg. Average cumulative oral dose was 30 g over 5 years. The best predictor of MJON was cumulative oral glucocorticoid dose. For each increase of 1,000 mg, risk of MJON increased by 3.2% (95% CI 1.03, 1.67). Glucocorticoid exposure in the first 6 months of therapy, peak dose (oral or IV), and mean daily dose did not independently increase risk of MJON. The risk of MJON was 12-fold in patients who had a second risk factor (95% CI 3.2, 44.4).
Among patients with glucocorticoid-induced ON, cumulative oral dose was the best predictor of multi-joint disease; initial doses of IV and oral glucocorticoids did not independently increase risk. Further research is needed to better define optimal strategies for prevention and treatment of MJON.