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What Is Osteolysis and How Is It Treated?

September 26, 2022 In Class Action

Osteolysis is a progressive medical condition characterized by the degradation of bones. This condition can be caused by a number of factors, including defective medical devices like polyethylene inserts.

If you are diagnosed with osteolysis, you are more likely to break a bone, lose mobility, and suffer from other physical complications. However, there are many treatment options available to patients that can help reduce the impact of the condition.

What Are the Common Symptoms of Osteolysis?

Osteolysis occurs when your bones lose critical minerals like calcium. Your bones may soften as the tissue is destroyed and you may become physically weaker. In most cases, osteolysis does not cause any symptoms until it progresses to a more advanced stage.

When osteolysis begins to affect the tissues in and around your bones, you may suffer from physical pain and stiffness. Your bones may break much more easily and you may be unable to move your joints. Because osteolysis is a progressive disease, the condition worsens over time. 

What Causes Osteolysis?

Osteolysis can be caused by other medical conditions, such as arthritis, infections, and periodontal disease. In particular, this condition is a hallmark symptom of multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that can destroy the bones. Repetitive stress on the shoulders, knees, and hips may also contribute to osteolysis.

Many cases of osteolysis are caused by prosthetics used in joint replacement surgery. The materials in these implants can degrade inside of your body and cause significant damage to your bone cells. If you believe that your osteolysis was caused by a defective prosthetic device, you may be eligible for a lawsuit against the device’s manufacturer.

What Are the Types of Osteolysis?

There are three types of osteolysis: distal clavicular osteolysis, which commonly occurs in weightlifters; periprosthetic osteolysis, which affects people who have joint replacement surgeries; and acro-osteolysis, a condition that affects the fingers and toes. 

Distal Clavicular Osteolysis

This condition affects the acromioclavicular joint, which is located at the top of the shoulder. Distal clavicular osteolysis is also known as weightlifter’s shoulder because this condition is often caused by the repetitive lifting of a heavy object above one’s head. However, distal clavicular osteolysis can also occur in other people who perform repetitive movements that place stress on their shoulders, like construction workers, competitive swimmers, and factory employees.

Periprosthetic Osteolysis

This type of osteolysis occurs as a result of the degradation of joint replacement devices. While many people recover from these procedures with no complications, some materials like polyethylene can break down and cause debris to accumulate in the surrounding tissues. As a result, the bone begins to degrade because of the inflammation, leading to periprosthetic osteolysis. 


This rare form of osteolysis occurs when the bones in the fingers and the toes begin to degrade. Many underlying conditions can contribute to acro-osteolysis, such as arthritis and Raynaud’s phenomenon. Acro-osteolysis can be very painful and result in poor blood circulation.

What Complications Can Osteolysis Cause?

Any kind of osteolysis can cause significant, life-altering complications, such as the following:

  • Increased Risk of Fractures: Because your bones are degrading, you may become more vulnerable to bone fractures. Broken bones can be extremely painful and take a long time to heal.
  • Physical Weakness: The impact of osteolysis may result in the rapid onset of debility, or physical weakness. You may be unable to regain your strength following your osteolysis diagnosis, making this condition irreversible.
  • Frequent Dislocations: Your joints can become weak after you are diagnosed with osteolysis. As a result, you may dislocate your knees, shoulders, and other joints at a more frequent rate than normal. 

What Treatment Options Are Available to Osteolysis Patients?

Treatment for osteolysis will depend on the underlying cause. Generally, you may require a combination of medication and surgery.

Your medical team may prescribe medication to treat any underlying medical conditions that are contributing to osteolysis. For example, if the condition is caused by an infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to treat it. If you have severe pain and inflammation, your physician may give you non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).

Surgery may be required to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with broken bones and dislocated joints. Additionally, if your osteolysis was caused by defective knee and ankle impacts, you may need surgery to remove and replace the implant with a safer alternative.

How Much Does Osteolysis Treatment Cost?

Osteolysis treatment can be expensive, often costing thousands of dollars for special medications, surgical procedures, and treatment for underlying conditions like cancer or arthritis. In addition to the medical expenses, you may also need to take time away from work to receive this care and recover from the condition’s side effects. In severe cases, you may be unable to return to work at all.

In these situations, you could struggle to pay for your osteolysis treatment. However, if you believe that your condition was caused by a defective medical device, you may have options for compensation. You may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the implant’s manufacturer and recover a settlement to help pay for your medical care, lost wages, and other losses.

Filing a Lawsuit for Osteolysis Caused by Defective Implants

Across the United States, osteolysis patients are filing lawsuits against the manufacturers of defective implants. In particular, manufacturer Exactech is facing litigation in regard to its knee and ankle arthroplasty polyethylene inserts. These devices were found to degrade inside of patients’ bodies and lead to complications like osteolysis.

If you received a knee or ankle implant from this manufacturer and later suffered from bone loss, it is important to contact an attorney who is currently handling Exactech lawsuits. A lawyer can help you understand whether you qualify for a lawsuit and craft a compelling case for your right to fair compensation.

As soon as possible following your osteolysis diagnosis, gather all relevant information pertaining to your implant and your medical condition. Then, schedule a free case consultation with an attorney who is representing victims of defective knee and ankle implants. Your lawyer will carefully review your case and help you identify your optimal path to financial compensation.