Objectives: Bone failure due to avascular necrosis (AVN) is a complex pathological phenomenon. Analysis of molecular changes in the bone matrix may help to shed light on the disease process and guide management. This study aimed to explore changes in bone quality and structural damage caused by sickle cell disease (SCD)-induced AVN using Raman spectroscopy. Methods: A total of 10 necrotic femoral heads were obtained from seven SCD patients who underwent total hip replacements. The femoral heads were cut in half and scanned using Raman spectroscopy in correlation with preoperative magnetic resonance imaging to identify necrotic and healthy control areas. Subsequently, samples were examined to determine changes in bone mineralisation, crystallinity, carbonate content, collagen cross-linking and mineral and collagen fibril orientation. Results: Significant changes were observed in bone mineral content, mineral-to-organic content and collagen fibril orientation in necrotic compared to control areas (P ≤0.050). Conclusion: The necrotic samples displayed severe structural damage and loss of mineral and organic contents. Similar Raman signals have been reported in other metabolic bone diseases such as osteoporosis, thereby potentially supporting the use of medical treatment in AVN to promote bone quality.
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