Osteochondritis dissecans



What is osteochondritis dissecans?

Osteochondritis dissecans is a joint condition in which bone underneath the cartilage of a joint dies due to lack of blood flow. This bone and cartilage can then break loose, causing pain and possibly hinder joint motion.

How common is osteochondritis dissecans?

The exact prevalence is unknown, but there may be between 15 and 29 cases in every 100,000 people. It is more common in males, especially those between the ages of 10 and 20 years who are physically active. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans?

The common symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans are:

  • This most common symptom of osteochondritis dissecans might be triggered by physical activity — walking up stairs, climbing a hill or playing sports.
  • Swelling and tenderness. The skin around your joint might be swollen and tender.
  • Joint popping or locking. Your joint might pop or stick in one position if a loose fragment gets caught between bones during movement.
  • Joint weakness. You might feel as though your joint is “giving way” or weakening.
  • Decreased range of motion. You might be unable to straighten the affected limb completely.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes osteochondritis dissecans?

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

Risk factors

What increases my risk for osteochondritis dissecans?

There are many risk factors for osteochondritis dissecans, such as:

  • Trauma (about half of cases).
  • Male sex (although incidence is increasing in women and girls).
  • Overuse due to sporting activity.
  • Familial pattern in about 10% of cases.
  • Ligamentous weakness.
  • Genu valgum/varum.
  • Meniscal lesions in the knee.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is osteochondritis dissecans diagnosed?

A person who experiences the symptoms of OCD in a joint should seek medical advice. An early diagnosis can mean more effective treatment and a lower risk of complications.

The doctor will carry out a physical examination and ask the patient about their medical history, family history and lifestyle, including sporting activities.

There may be some imaging tests, such as an X-ray, CT, MRI scan, or ultrasound. This may show whether there is any necrosis, or tissue death, or loose fragments. A bone scan may also be recommended.

In the early stages, tests will show that the cartilage is thickening. In the later stages, there will be loose fragments.

The early stages are considered stable, and treatment is more likely to be effective at this point.

Conditions, with similar symptoms need to be ruled out. These include inflammatory arthritis, osteoarthritis, bone cysts and septic arthritis.

How is osteochondritis dissecans treated?

Treatment of osteochondritis dissecans is intended to restore the normal functioning of the affected joint and to relieve pain, as well as reduce the risk of osteoarthritis. No single treatment works for everybody. In children whose bones are still growing, the bone defect may heal with a period of rest and protection.


  • Initially, your doctor will likely recommend conservative measures, which might include:
  • Resting your joint. Avoid activities that stress your joint, such as jumping and running if your knee is affected. You might need to use crutches for a time, especially if pain causes you to limp. Your doctor might also suggest wearing a splint, cast or brace to immobilize the joint for a few weeks.
  • Physical therapy. Most often, this therapy includes stretching and range-of-motion exercises and strengthening exercises for the muscles that support the involved joint. Physical therapy is commonly recommended after surgery, as well.


If you have a loose fragment in your joint or if conservative treatments don’t help after four to six months, you might need surgery. The type of surgery will depend on the size and stage of the injury and how mature your bones are.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage osteochondritis dissecans?

Adolescents participating in organized sports might benefit from education on the risks to their joints associated 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 can help reduce the chance of injury.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Review Date: October 25, 2017 | Last Modified: October 26, 2017