Dr Pr. D’Agostino, MD, PhD

Hand Clinic Brussels - Lasne

LOUISE +32 2 534 29 99 LASNE +32 2 653 11 11

Kienböck’s disease

QT Pathologies (EN)

Kienbock's disease is a problem in the wrist caused by the loss of blood supply to the lunate.

The lunate is one of the eight small bones that make up the "carpal bones" in the wrist. There are two rows of bones: one closer to the forearm, the "proximal row;" the other closer to the fingers, the "distal row." The lunate bone is in the center of the proximal row. It is next to the scaphoid bone, which spans the two rows.

The progression of Kienbock's disease is variable and unpredictable.

  • Anatomy of the carpal bones: the lunate bone is located at the center of the first row Anatomy of the carpal bones: the lunate bone is located at the center of the first row Anatomy images courtesy and copyright of Primal Pictures Ltd – www.primalpictures.com

There is probably no single cause for loss of blood supply to the lunate. The cause of Kienbock's disease seems to involve multiple factors. These factors include the blood supply (arteries), the blood drainage (veins), and skeletal variations.
Skeletal variations associated with Kienbock's disease include a shorter length of the ulna (negative ulnar variance), one of the forearm bones, and the shape of the lunate bone itself.

There may be some cases that are associated with diseases like gout, sickle cell anemia, and cerebral palsy.

Trauma, either a single event or repeated significant trauma, may affect the blood supply to the lunate. In general, though, Kienbock's disease is not felt to be related to occupational hazards. However, the presence of Kienbock's disease can affect the treatment and prognosis for traumatic events.

  • Short ulna (negative ulnar variance) Short ulna (negative ulnar variance)

Most patients with Kienbock's disease present with wrist pain. There is usually tenderness directly over the lunate bone.

Over time, patients loose grip strength and the wrist becomes stiff.

The diagnosis of Kienbock's disease is made by history, physical examination, and plain X-rays.

Kienböck's is often missed at the beginning because signs are very subtle, people have wrist pain with normal X-rays. As the disease progresses, the X-ray changes in the lunate become more obvious. With further progression, the lunate develops small fractures and the bone fragments and collapses. As collapse occurs, the mechanics of the wrist become changed, which puts abnormal stresses and wear on the joints within the wrist itself (see Osteoarthritis of the wrist section).

Not every case of Kienbock's disease progresses through all stages to the severely deteriorated arthritic end-stage.Special studies are sometimes also needed to confirm the diagnosis. The most reliable study to assess the blood supply of the lunate is MRI. CT scanning, specialized CT scanning, and bone scan may also be used.

  • Kienböck disease with lunate collapse Kienböck disease with lunate collapse

Treatment options depend upon the severity and stage of the disease. In very early stages, the treatment can be as simple as observation or immobilization. For more advanced stages, surgery is usually considered to try to reduce the load on the lunate bone by lengthening, shortening, or fusing various bones in the forearm or wrist. Sometimes bone grafting or removal of the diseased lunate is performed. If the disease is very advanced and the relations of the bones one to the other have markedly deteriorated, complete wrist fusion may be the treatment of choice (see Osteoarthritis of the wrist section).

Hand therapy does not change the course of the disease, however, hand therapy can help to minimize the disability from the problem. Treatment is designed to relieve pain and restore function.

The results of Kienbock's disease and its treatment vary considerably depending on the severity of the involvement, and whether or not the disease progresses. The disease process and response to treatment will take several months. On occasion, several forms of treatment, and even multiple operations, might be necessary.

During your consultation, Dr. D'Agostino will discuss the current treatment options and can help you choose the best treatment based on your particular case.