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Kienböck Disease

(Kienböck's Disease)


David R. Steinberg

, MD, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Last full review/revision Apr 2022| Content last modified Sep 2022
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Kienböck disease is avascular necrosis of the lunate bone. Symptoms include wrist pain and tenderness. Diagnosis is with imaging. Treatment is with various surgical procedures.

Kienböck disease occurs most commonly in the dominant hand of men aged 20 to 45, usually in workers doing heavy manual labor. Overall, Kienböck disease is relatively rare. Its cause is unknown. The lunate can eventually collapse and cause fixed rotation of the scaphoid and subsequent degeneration of the carpal joints.

Symptoms and Signs of Kienböck Disease

Symptoms of Kienböck disease generally start with insidious onset of wrist pain, localized to the region of the lunate carpal bone; patients have no recollection of trauma. Kienböck disease is bilateral in 10% of cases. There is localized tenderness in the lunate bone, most commonly over the dorsal wrist along the midline. Mild swelling is possible.

Diagnosis of Kienböck Disease

  • Imaging

To diagnose Kienböck disease, MRI and CT are the most sensitive; plain x-rays show abnormalities later, usually beginning with a sclerotic lunate, then later cystic changes, fragmentation, and collapse.

Differential diagnosis of mid-dorsal wrist pain includes dorsal wrist ganglion, synovitis or arthritis, or extensor tendinitis.

Treatment of Kienböck Disease

  • Wrist splinting and analgesics for early stages

  • Surgical procedures

In early stages of Kienböck disease, wrist splinting may decrease pressure on the lunate, relieving pain and possibly helping to restore blood flow. Analgesics are given for pain.

Salvage procedures (eg, proximal row carpectomy or intercarpal fusions) may help preserve some wrist function if the carpal joints have degenerated.

Total wrist arthrodesis can be done as a last resort to relieve pain. Nonsurgical treatments are rarely effective.

Treatment references

  • 1. Shin YH, Kim JK, Han M, et al: Comparison of long-term outcomes of radial osteotomy and nonoperative treatment for Kienböck disease: a systematic review. J Bone Joint Surg 100(14):1231-1240, 2018. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.17.00764.

  • 2. Afshar A, Eivaziatashbeik K: Long-term clinical and radiological outcomes of radial shortening osteotomy and vascularized bone graft in Kienböck disease. J Hand Surg Am 38(2):289-296, 2013. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2012.11.016.

  • 3. Bürger HK, Windhofer C, Gaggl AJ, et al: Vascularized medial femoral trochlea osteochondral flap reconstruction of advanced Kienböck disease. J Hand Surg Am 39(7):1313-1322, 2014. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2014.03.040.

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