Osteochondritis Dissecans

What is Osteochondritis Dissecans?

Osteochondritis dissecans is a joint disease in which bone underneath the cartilage of a joint dies because of lack of blood flow. This bone and cartilage could then break loose, causing pain and possibly obstructing joint motion.

Osteochondritis dissecans happen most usually in children and adolescents. It could cause symptoms either after an injury to a joint or after many months of activity, particularly high-impact activity like jumping and running, which affects the joint. The condition happens most commonly in the knee, but also happens in elbows, ankles and other joints.

Primary care physicians stage osteochondritis dissecans according to the size of the injury, whether the portion is partially or completely detached, and whether the portion stays in place. If the loosened piece of cartilage and bone stays in place, you might have few or no symptoms. For young children whose bones are still developing, the injury may heal by itself.

Surgery may be required if the portion comes loose and gets caught between the moving parts of your joint or if you have continuous pain.

Osteochondritis Dissecans Symptoms

Depending on the joint which is damaged, signs and symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans may include:

  • Pain - This most common symptom of osteochondritis dissecans may be caused by physical activity such as walking upstairs, climbing a hill or playing sports.

  • Inflammation and tenderness - The skin around your joint might be inflamed and tender.

  • Joint popping or locking - Your joint may pop or stick in one position if a loose portion gets caught between bones during movement.

  • Joint weakness - You may feel as though your joint is "giving up" or weakening.

  • Decreased extent of motion - You may be unable to straighten the affected limb completely.


When should you see a doctor?

If you have continuous pain or soreness in your knee, elbow or another joint, see your primary care physician. Other signs and symptoms which should prompt a call or visit to your primary care physician include joint inflammation or an inability to move a joint through its full extent of motion.

Osteochondritis Dissecans Causes

The cause of osteochondritis dissecans is unrecognized. The lowered blood flow to the end of the affected bone may result from repetitive trauma — small, multiple episodes of minor, unrecognized injury which damage the bone. There may be a genetic component, making some people more inclined to develop the disorder.

Risk factors

Osteochondritis dissecans happen most generally in children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 20 who are highly active in sports.


Osteochondritis dissecans could increase your risk of ultimately developing osteoarthritis in that joint.


Adolescents participating in organized sports may benefit from education on the risks to their joints related with overuse. Learning the proper mechanics and techniques of their sport, using the proper protective gear, and participating in strength training and stability training exercises could help lower the chance of injury.

Osteochondritis Dissecans Diagnosis


During the physical examination, your primary care physician will press on the affected joint, checking for areas of inflammation or tenderness. In some cases, you or your primary care physician will be able to feel a loose portion inside your joint. Your primary care physician will also check other structures around the joint, like the ligaments.

Your primary care physician will also ask you to move your joint in different directions to see whether the joint could move smoothly through its normal extent of motion.

Imaging tests

Your primary care physician might order one or more of these tests:

  • X-rays - X-rays could show deformities in the joint's bones.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - Using radio waves and a strong magnetic field, an magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) could offer detailed pictures of both hard and soft tissues, including the bone and cartilage. If X-rays appear normal but you still have symptoms, your primary care physician may order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan - This technique combines X-ray offers taken from different angles to produce cross-sectional pictures of internal structures. Computerized tomography (CT) scans permit your primary care physician to see bone in high detail, which could help pinpoint the location of loose portions within the joint.


Osteochondritis Dissecans Treatment

Treatment of osteochondritis dissecans is intended to restore the normal functioning of the damaged joint and ease pain, as well as lower the risk of osteoarthritis. None of the treatments work for everyone. In children whose bones are still growing, the bone defect might heal with a period of rest and protection.


Primarily, your primary care physician will likely suggest conservative measures, which may include:

  • Resting your joint - Avoid activities which stress your joint, like jumping and running if your knee is damaged. You may require to use crutches for a time, particularly if pain causes you to limp. Your primary care physician may also recommend wearing a splint, cast or brace to immobilize the joint for a few weeks.

  • Physical therapy - Most usually, this therapy includes stretching, range-of-motion exercises and strengthening exercises for the muscles which support the involved joint. Physical therapy is commonly suggested after surgery, as well.

Osteochondritis Dissecans Surgery
If you have a loose portion in your joint, if the damaged area is still present after your bones have stopped growing, or if conservative treatments do not help after 4 to 6 months, you may require surgery. The type of surgery will depend upon the size and stage of the injury and how mature your bones are.

If you or anyone you know is suffering from osteochondritis dissecans, our expert providers at now find relief will take care of your health and help you recover.

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