The Incidence and Natural History of Osteonecrosis in HIV-Infected Adults

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Abstract

Background.

Osteonecrosis is increasingly recognized as a debilitating complication of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, but the natural history has not been well described. We previously documented a high prevalence (4.4%) of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-documented osteonecrosis of the hip in a cohort of 339 asymptomatic HIV-infected patients. The present study was designed to determine the incidence of newly diagnosed osteonecrosis in this cohort and to describe the natural history of osteonecrosis in HIV-infected patients.

Methods.

Asymptomatic HIV-infected patients with a previous hip MRI negative for osteonecrosis underwent follow-up MRI. Patients with asymptomatic or symptomatic osteonecrosis were enrolled in a natural history study, which included serial MRIs and a physiotherapy follow-up.

Results.

Two hundred thirty-nine patients underwent a second MRI a median of 23 months after the initial MRI. Osteonecrosis of the femoral head was diagnosed in 3 patients (incidence, 0.65 cases per 100 person-years). During the period of January 1999 through April 2006, symptomatic hip osteonecrosis developed in 13 clinic patients (incidence, 0.26 cases per 100 person-years). Among 22 patients enrolled with symptomatic hip osteonecrosis, 18 had bilateral involvement of the femoral heads, and 7 had osteonecrosis involving other bones. Two (11%) of 18 asymptomatic patients and 13 (59%) of 22 symptomatic patients underwent total hip replacement. The percentage of involvement of the weight-bearing surface of the femoral head and the rate of progression to total hip replacement was significantly greater (P < .001) in symptomatic patients than in asymptomatic patients.

Conclusions.

HIV-infected patients are at ∽100-fold greater risk of developing osteonecrosis than the general population. Disease progression is slower in asymptomatic patients than in symptomatic patients. Given the high frequency of total hip replacement in symptomatic patients, studies to assess preventive and treatment strategies are essential.

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