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Kienbock's Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment And More



What is Kienbock's Disease?

Kienbock's disease is a condition that affects the bones in the hand. It is a rare condition that usually affects only one hand, but it can affect both hands. The disease is named after Austrian radiologist Robert Kienböck who first described it in 1910. It is a rare disorder affecting one of the eight small carpal bones in the wrist.

The condition is caused by a loss of blood supply to the bone (lunate) in the hand. This can occur for a number of reasons, including trauma, arthritis or a birth defect. Without a supply of blood, the bone begins to die. There are four stages of the disease and as the disease progresses the bone may collapse, causing deformity in the hands.

Common Symptoms of Kienbock's disease

Kienbock's disease can cause a wide range of symptoms, depending on the severity of the condition. The most common symptom is a pain in the affected bone which can range from mild to severe. The pain often worsens with activity and may improve with rest. 

Other symptoms can include:

  • Tenderness
  • Swelling of the wrist
  • Deformity of the affected bone
  • Reduced hand grip
  • Stiffness of the wrist
  • Cracking or grating sound when moving the wrist

What Are The Main Causes of Kienbock's disease?

There are several possible causes of Kienbock's disease although the exact cause is not always clear. Here are some of the most common causes of Kienbock's disease:

  • Trauma:  One of the most common causes is trauma to the affected bone, which can occur due to a fall or other injury. A fracture or other injury to the hand can damage the blood vessels and lead to Kienbock's disease.
  • Overuse: Repetitive motions such as those often seen in athletes can damage the blood vessels and lead to this disease. People involved in manual labour are also at high risk of developing this disease.
  • Arthritis and other medical conditions: Inflammation of the joints can damage the blood vessels and lead to Kienbock's disease. Furthermore, bone diseases such as osteomyelitis and certain conditions like cerebral palsy and sickle cell anaemia can also lead to Kienbock's disease.
  • The irregular shape of the lunate or the forearm bones: Irregular lunate shape or irregularities in the shape of the radius and ulna (both are of different lengths) can also cause this disease.
  • Genetic factors: Some people may be born with a predisposition to Kienbock's disease; however there is no solid evidence that this disease is hereditary.

If you think you may have Kienbock's disease, it is important to see a doctor so that the condition can be properly diagnosed and treated.

How is Kienbock's Disease Diagnosed?

Due to its rareness, this disease can be difficult to diagnose. Your healthcare provider will conduct a physical exam of your wrist and may ask you about your life history and medical history in order to diagnose this disease. The doctor may further order an X-ray and/or MRI to examine your wrist bones. In addition to this, doctors may also order certain blood tests for the diagnosis of Kienbock's disease.

Treatment Options For Kienbock's Disease

There is no cure for Kienbock's disease but there are treatments that can help to slow its progression and relieve symptoms. The goal of treatment is to improve function and prevent further damage to the bones. Having said that, there is no single treatment for Kienbock's disease. Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition and the presence of any complications. These include:

  • Non-surgical treatment options

The most common treatment for Kienbock's disease is non-surgical. This includes the use of splints or other devices to immobilize the affected hand. This can help to protect the bones and allow them to heal. Physical therapy may also be recommended to help improve range of motion and strength.

  • Surgical treatment options

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat Kienbock's disease. The type of surgery will depend on the severity of the condition. Options include joint fusion, bone grafting and the removal of the lunate bone. Surgery is usually only recommended when non-surgical treatments have failed.

If you have Kienbock's disease, it is important to work with a team of specialists to develop a treatment plan that is right for you. With the right treatment, you can improve your symptoms and quality of life.

Who is at Risk of Kienbock's Disease?

Kienbock's disease is most common in young adults (20 to 40 years of age) but it can occur at any age. It is more common in men than in women. People who are at risk of developing this disease include those who have had a previous injury to the hand, those who have a family history of the condition and those who participate in activities that put stress on the hand. Furthermore, if you are diagnosed with conditions such as lupus, sickle cell anaemia or cerebral palsy then you're also at high risk of developing this disease. If you think you may be at risk of developing this disease, talk to your doctor.


As mentioned before, there is no cure for Kienbock's disease. However, with early diagnosis and correct treatment, you may be able to protect your wrist and manage the pain. Since it is a progressive disease you might not experience early symptoms. However, it is extremely important that you seek immediate medical attention if you feel prolonged stiffness, swelling and pain in one of your wrists. Furthermore, if you have been diagnosed with Kienbock's disease, it is important to follow your treatment plan as directed by your doctor. With treatment, most people with this disease are able to experience relief from symptoms and improve functioning.

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