Osteochondritis Dissecans

What is Osteochondritis Dissecans?

Osteochondritis Dissecans is a bone condition that affects the joints, usually in children and teenagers. The bone beneath the joint cartilage dies off when it is deprived of blood flow. At some point, both the cartilage and bone can break loose, and this causes significant pain and may even hinder movement in the joint. The disorder typically appears in the knees after a joint injury or after many months of high-impact activity like running and jumping, although it can be present in any joint.

Osteochondritis dissecans is staged based on injury size, if the fragment is completely or partly detached, and if the loosened cartilage remains in place. The exact cause of the condition is not known, although it is thought that a genetic component or repeated stress may be involved. Those who encounter the injury as children may face an increased chance of eventually developing osteoarthritis in the affected joint.

What are the Symptoms of Osteochondritis Dissecans?

In cases where the cartilage fragment stays in place, patients may see no symptoms. Otherwise, they are likely to experience:

  • Knee pain
  • Joint locking
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Joint popping
  • Limited motion
  • Joint weakness
  • Grating noise
  • Limping
  • Stiffness

How is Osteochondritis Dissecans Treated?

Adolescents who participate in organized sports can utilize proper protective gear as well as practicing stability and strength training to reduce their chances of developing the injury in the first place. When osteocondritis dissecans does occur, many will benefit from frequent rest and activity modification to promote healing.

For some, this could mean taking a break from participating in their sport. Braces and crutches may be needed, and NSAIDs will assist in managing the pain. Various exercises and stretches can also be helpful. Young children may see the injury heal on its own as their bones continue to grow. If all other options are ineffective, surgery might be required.

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Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
August 15, 2017
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