What is Preiser’s disease and what causes it?

Preiser’s disease was named for the physician who first described it in 1910. It is a condition of osteonecrosis of the scaphoid bone in the wrist. The scaphoid is the first bone in the wrist next to the radius (forearm bone on the thumb side).

Osteonecrosis refers to death of the bone caused by a loss of blood supply. Avascular necrosis (AVN) is a term used to refer to loss of blood to the bone with subsequent death of the bone.

Some experts say this is a spontaneous condition. In other words, it happens without any apparent reason. Others suggest a small fracture or other trauma is the main cause of Preiser’s disease.

The patient reports wrist pain at rest and with movement. Tenderness over the scaphoid bone is common. Decreased grip strength is often reported.

X-rays are used to diagnose the problem. Changes in the scaphoid bone are seen at first. Later, the bone may break, fall apart, and/or collapse. Surgery may be needed to correct the problem.