Osteochondritis Dissecans in the Knee

Osteochondritis dissecans at a glance

  • Osteochondritis dissecans is a condition in which small cracks develop in the cartilage and/or bones of a joint. If the cracks begin to fragment, the joint may become jammed or locked.
  • This condition commonly occurs in the knee, but can also occur in the elbow, shoulder, hip, or ankle.
  • Osteochondritis dissecans is typically caused by repeated, minor trauma between the bones of a joint.
  • Symptoms include pain, swelling, tenderness, and grinding or locking in the joint.
  • Treatment includes rest, physical therapy, and avoiding activities that strain the affected joint. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to reattach or remove loose fragments.

Causes of osteochondritis dissecans

Osteochondritis dissecans occurs when the blood supply to part of the cartilage or bone in the knee (or other joints) is lost. That portion of cartilage or bone can develop small cracks or even break off entirely. In some cases, the fragment of bone or cartilage may lodge itself in between the bones of the joint, making movement difficult or impossible.

Sports activities that require jumping, sudden changes of direction, or throwing can cause osteochondritis dissecans. These repetitive motions can cause small injuries that may go unnoticed until symptoms appear.

Over time, the repeated trauma of the bones hitting each other can cause cracks or fragments to occur in the bone or cartilage of the joint.

Symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans

Symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans include pain and soreness in the joint that intensifies with movement. The loose fragments of cartilage or bone in the joint may interrupt the range of motion, or pop or lock in place. The affected joint may become swollen and tender to the touch.

Treatment for osteochondritis dissecans

With time and rest, the affected bone and cartilage may heal on its own. Physical therapy exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles around the knee joint can help restore the knee’s range of motion.

In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove loose pieces of bone from the joint, or to repair tissue that has separated from the bone.

Contact us to request an appointment with our knee specialists if you are experience symptoms and pain associated with osteochondritis dissecans to learn more about your treatment options.