Osteochondritis Dissecans

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Catherine Burt Driver, MD
    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD

    Catherine Burt Driver, MD, is board certified in internal medicine and rheumatology by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Dr. Driver is a member of the American College of Rheumatology. She currently is in active practice in the field of rheumatology in Mission Viejo, Calif., where she is a partner in Mission Internal Medical Group.

View RA Slideshow Pictures

Osteochondritis dissecans facts

  • Osteochondritis dissecans is a joint condition whereby a variable amount of bone and its adjacent cartilage loses its blood supply.
  • The cause of osteochondritis dissecans is often unknown.
  • Symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and even locking of the joint.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans is best diagnosed with imaging studies.
  • Arthroscopic surgery is a procedure that is frequently used as a treatment to remove the loose cartilage and bone tissue from the joint.

What is osteochondritis dissecans?

Osteochondritis dissecans is a joint condition whereby a variable amount of bone and its adjacent cartilage loses its blood supply. Osteochondritis dissecans can involve the bone and cartilage of virtually any joint. Elbows and knees are most commonly affected. Usually, only a small portion of the affected cartilage is involved. Osteochondritis dissecans most commonly affects boys between 9 and 18 years of age.

What causes osteochondritis dissecans?

The cause of osteochondritis dissecans is often unknown. Theories include mild recurrent injuries or growth disturbances.

What are symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans?

Symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans are a direct result of the irregularity of the cartilage within the affected joint. Symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and even locking of the joint so that its range of motion is significantly limited to the point that it cannot be moved beyond a limited range. For example, when osteochondritis dissecans affects the elbow, the joint may not move beyond 90 degrees of extension instead of being able to fully extend straight to 180 degrees.

How is osteochondritis dissecans diagnosed?

Osteochondritis dissecans can be suggested clinically by observing the lack of full range of motion with "locking" of the joint at a certain angle. It is at this angle that the loosened cartilage and bone is literally being "pinched" as the joint is attempting to move. Ultimately, osteochondritis dissecans is best diagnosed with imaging studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI scan) or an arthrogram.

What is the treatment of osteochondritis dissecans?

There is no cure as such, but the condition can be treated by a variety of means depending on the size and location of the lesion as well as the age of the patient and the degree of symptoms. Arthroscopic surgery is a procedure that is frequently used as a treatment to remove the loose cartilage and bone tissue from the joint. It can also be used to encourage healing by drilling and fixation of lesions that are only partially detached.

Sometimes, especially in the very young (juvenile) form, osteochondritis dissecans can spontaneously correct itself.

What is the prognosis of osteochondritis dissecans?

Indicators of a worse prognosis or outcome include a large-sized lesion, a lesion on a weight-bearing area, and older age of the patient.

Can osteochondritis dissecans be prevented?

It is only possible to prevent osteochondritis dissecans by preventing trauma or injury to the affected joint.

Medically reviewed by Aimee V. HachigianGould, MD; American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery

REFERENCE:

Humes, H. David, et al., eds. Kelley's Textbook of Internal Medicine. 4th Edition. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2000.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/18/2015

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Arthritis Newsletter

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans - Symptoms

    What were your symptoms associated with osteochondritis dissecans?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans - Treatments

    What forms of treatment have you tried for osteochondritis dissecans? Did you have surgery?

    Post

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors