Osteonecrosis of the knee comprises two separate disorders, primary spontaneous osteonecrosis which is often a self-limiting condition and secondary osteonecrosis which is associated with risk factors and a poor prognosis. In a series of 61 knees (38 patients) we analysed secondary osteonecrosis of the knee treated by a new technique using multiple small percutaneous 3 mm drillings. Total knee replacement was avoided in 59 knees (97%) at a mean follow-up of 3 years (2 to 4). Of the 61 knees, 56 (92%) had a successful clinical outcome, defined as a Knee Society score greater than 80 points. The procedure was successful in all 24 knees with small lesions compared with 32 of 37 knees (86%) with large lesions. All the procedures were performed as day cases and there were no complications. This technique appears to have a low morbidity, relieves symptoms and delays more invasive surgery.