Kienböck’s disease, which causes pain, stiffness and weakness in your wrist, can make everyday activities difficult. In the late stages, you may get arthritis. This can happen quickly — within several months — or it could take years. Surgical and nonsurgical treatments can help reduce pain and recover or maintain motion of your wrist.
Kienböck’s disease is the breakdown of a small crescent-shaped bone in your wrist (the lunate). The breakdown happens slowly, getting worse with time. Kienböck’s disease can sometimes lead to arthritis of your wrist.
Not everyone with Kienböck’s disease experiences symptoms, so sometimes the disease is discovered while a healthcare provider is examining your wrist for a different reason.
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Your lunate is one of eight carpal bones in your wrist. It’s located near the center. Together with two other bones that make up your forearm (the radius and the ulna), the lunate helps your wrist move.
Adults are at a higher risk, but Kienböck’s disease can happen at any age. The disease usually starts in early adulthood, most commonly in people designated male at birth (DMAB) ages 20 to 40.
You’re at a higher risk for Kienböck’s disease if you have any disorders that affect your blood such as sickle cell anemia or lupus, but there is also a higher risk among individuals with certain conditions such as cerebral palsy.
Although the exact cause of Kienböck’s disease is unknown, several factors might contribute to the breakdown of your lunate bone, including:
Not everyone with Kienböck’s disease experiences symptoms. Commonly reported symptoms include:
Yes, late-stage Kienböck’s disease can make your wrist arthritic. Arthritis of the carpal bones of your wrist causes pain, swelling, stiffness and wrist and hand weakness. There are both nonsurgical and surgical treatments for it.
You’ll meet with your healthcare provider and report your symptoms. Be as specific as you can about the type and location of your pain, and how long you’ve been experiencing it. Your healthcare provider might order tests, including:
Your healthcare provider might tell you the stage of your Kienböck’s disease. Stage 1 is the least severe and stage 4 is the most severe. MRI scans and CT scans help determine the stage by ruling out fractures and detecting blood flow.
It might be several months or several years between stage 1 and stage 4.
Your primary healthcare provider might refer you to one or more specialists who can help with your Kienböck’s disease. Specialists include:
Although there’s no single cure for Kienböck’s disease, treatment can help:
There are both nonsurgical and surgical treatments for Kienböck’s disease. Examples of nonsurgical treatments include:
Check with your healthcare provider regarding the best medications for you. Note that ibuprofen and naproxen are not suitable for people with some health conditions, including:
There are five types of surgeries recommended for Kienböck’s disease. The right one for you depends on the stage of your disease and your healthcare provider’s recommendations. Possible surgeries include:
Although there’s nothing you can do to prevent Kienböck’s disease, there are effective treatments.
If you were born with two vessels supplying blood to your lunate, you have a lower chance of getting Kienböck’s disease than someone with only one.
Sometimes Kienböck’s disease can lead to arthritis in your wrist. This is an unfortunate complication of the disease. Talk to your healthcare provider about the chances of that and figure out a treatment plan together.
Kienböck’s disease isn't a disease that will simply go away. If you don’t get treatment, your wrist will hurt more and more, and you’ll slowly lose your ability to use it. It’s important to see your healthcare provider for treatment as soon as possible.
Yes, you can expect your symptoms to get worse over time. As time goes by, the pain will increase and you’ll be able to use your wrist less and less, keeping you from going about your normal activities. This is why it’s important for you to see your healthcare provider quickly.
The time between stage 1 and stage 4 of Kienböck’s disease can be several months to several years.
The pain, stiffness and weakness of Kienböck’s disease is burdensome. It can keep you from going about your activities pain-free, and may even stop you from doing them at all. The best way to maintain or recover your best quality of life with Kienböck’s disease is to get treatment as soon as possible.
Don’t wait until the following symptoms are severe before you contact your healthcare provider. The sooner you’re diagnosed, the sooner you can get treatment. Contact your healthcare provider if you:
You might want to attend your appointment with your healthcare provider with a list of questions, like:
Call emergency services or go to the emergency department right away if you experience any of the following problems:
Kienböck’s is a rare disease. It’s usually found when you have a scan of your wrist for reasons other than checking for this disease. Out of about 100,000 people whose wrists are scanned, around seven will have Kienböck’s.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Kienböck’s is a rare disease that affects a bone in your wrist. It’s a progressive disease, which means you may not have symptoms or your symptoms might be mild at first. But your symptoms will become more pronounced and may limit your ability to perform your activities of daily living. The good news is that there are effective treatments available. Kienböck’s disease is easier to treat in its early stages, so don’t hesitate to mention symptoms like pain, swelling, stiffness or weakness in your wrist to your healthcare provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/25/2021.
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