Avascular necrosis (AVN) of the hips is associated with significant disability, and the majority of established cases require major surgery. In a retrospective analysis of 185 patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) 13 (7%) were found to have AVN. Of these, six had Raynaud's phenomenon, all had been on corticosteroids, and one had digital vasculitis. The mean duration of corticosteroid therapy was two years (range four months to five years). Five patients developed AVN two to 10 years after discontinuing steroids. The mean duration of disease at the onset of AVN was 6.85 years (range 1-19 years), and the mean age at onset of AVN was 31 years. Ten patients had severe multisystem involvement. None of the patients abused alcohol. Surgery was performed on 11 hips. Three had total hip replacement for stages 3 and 4 and seven had core decompression for stages 1 and 2. AVN progressed in two (28%) of these patients. In another patient core decompression failed for technical reasons. She subsequently required total hip replacement. The early detection of AVN to avoid the need for major surgery is stressed.
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