How is osteonecrosis (ON) diagnosed?

In many cases, osteonecrosis can be diagnosed with X-rays. However, X-rays cannot always detect the condition. Earlier diagnois of ON is best done with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). With the close to 100% sensitivity of MRIs, bone scans and biopsies are usually not used for diagnosis.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/10/2017.


  • American College of Rheumatology. Osteonecrosis. Accessed 6/4/2018.
  • National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Osteonecrosis. Accessed 6/4/2018
  • Mont MA, Cherian JJ, Sierra RJ, et al. Nontraumatic Osteonecrosis of the Femoral Head: Where Do We Stand Today? A Ten-Year Update. J Bone Joint Surg Am 2015;97:1604–27
  • Chughtai M, Piuzzi NS, Khlopas A, Jones LC, Goodman SB, Mont MA. An evidence-based guide to the treatment of osteonecrosis of the femoral head. Bone Joint J 2017;99–B:1267–79.

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy