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Kienböck’s Disease of the lunate: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Kienböck’s Disease of the lunate is a rare but significant condition which affects the wrists delicate bones and can cause discomfort and functional impairment. Named after the Austrian radiologist Robert Kienböck’s who first described it in 1910 this condition primarily impacts the lunate bone within the wrist. Despite its rarity comprehending Kienböcks Disease is essential to facilitate early diagnosis and effective management. This article delves into the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for Kienböck’s Disease.

Understanding Kienböck’s Disease

Kienböck’s Disease is also known as avascular necrosis of the lunate which occurs when there is a disruption in blood supply to the lunate bone. The lunate is one of the eight small carpal bones situated in the wrist. The lack of blood supply can lead to the death of bone tissue, causing pain, stiffness and potentially leading to joint degeneration if left untreated.

Causes of Kienböck’s Disease

Vascular Factors and Bone Health

The precise causes of Kienböck’s Disease are not always clear, but vascular factors are believed to play a significant role. Reduced blood supply to the lunate can result from factors like repetitive trauma, fractures or anatomical variations in blood vessels. Individuals with a history of wrist injuries or those engaged in activities that exert excessive pressure on the wrist joint might be more susceptible.

Anatomical Variations

Some individuals might have a shorter ulna the forearm bone on the pinky finger side which can affect load distribution in the wrist. This uneven pressure distribution can increase the risk of lunate bone damage over time.

Symptoms and Clinical Presentation

Early Signs and Symptoms of Kienböck’s Disease of the lunate

Kienböck’s Disease often develops gradually and its symptoms can vary depending on the stage of the condition. In the early stages patients might experience wrist pain particularly during activities that involve bending or gripping. The pain might be intermittent at first making it easy to dismiss.

Progression of Symptoms

As the disease progresses the pain might become more persistent and intense. Swelling and tenderness around the wrist joint can also occur. Patients might notice a reduction in wrist mobility and grip strength hindering their ability to perform everyday tasks.

Diagnosis and Medical Assessment

Clinical Examination and Medical History

Diagnosing Kienböck’s Disease typically involves a thorough medical history review and a physical examination. The doctor will inquire about any previous wrist injuries, occupation and hobbies that might contribute to the conditions development.

Radiological Imaging for Kienböck’s Disease of the lunate

Imaging techniques like X-rays and MRI scans are crucial for confirming the diagnosis. X-rays can reveal changes in the bone structure and help determine the stage of the disease. MRI scans provide detailed images of the bone and surrounding tissues aiding in evaluating the extent of bone damage and tissue involvement.

Treatment Options

Conservative Approaches

In the early stages and for less severe cases conservative treatments might be recommended. These can include rest, immobilization with a splint or cast and anti inflammatory medications to manage pain and reduce inflammation.

Surgical Interventions for Kienböck’s Disease of the lunate

For advanced cases where bone damage is significant surgical intervention might be necessary. Several surgical options exist including:

  1. Revascularization: This procedure aims to improve blood flow to the lunate bone by connecting nearby blood vessels.
  2. Joint Leveling: If there are issues with the ulnas length surgery can be performed to adjust the bone length and restore proper load distribution.
  3. Joint Fusion: In cases of severe damage fusing the wrist joint might be considered to alleviate pain and improve joint stability.
  4. Partial or Complete Lunate Removal: In some cases the damaged lunate might be partially or completely removed and replaced with an artificial joint or a bone graft.

Rehabilitation and Recovery

Following surgery, rehabilitation is crucial to restore wrist function and strength. Physical therapy exercises can help improve joint mobility, strengthen muscles and enhance overall wrist functionality.


Kienböck’s Disease is a rare but potentially debilitating condition that affects the wrists lunate bone. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment can significantly impact the patient’s quality of life. By understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms and exploring the available treatment options both patients and healthcare providers can work together to effectively manage this condition and alleviate its impact on wrist function and overall well being.

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