Osteochondritis dissecans (os-tee-o-kohn-DRY-tis DIS-uh-kanz) is a joint condition in which a piece of cartilage, along with a thin layer of the bone beneath it, comes loose from the end of a bone.
Caused by reduced blood flow to the end of a bone, osteochondritis dissecans occurs most often in young men, particularly after an injury to a joint. The knee is most commonly affected, although osteochondritis dissecans can occur in other joints, including your elbow, shoulder, hip and ankle.
If the loosened piece of cartilage and bone stays put, lying close to where it detached, you may have few or no symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans, and the fracture can often heal by itself. Surgical repair may be necessary if the fragment gets jammed between the moving parts of your joint.
Signs and symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans may include:
When to see a doctor
Osteochondritis dissecans appears to be caused by a reduction of blood flow to the end of the affected bone. This may occur from repetitive trauma — small, multiple episodes of minor unrecognized injury that damage the end of the affected bone. There may also be a genetic component involved, making some people more inclined to develop the disorder.
Osteochondritis dissecans can increase your risk of eventually developing osteoarthritis in that joint.
Preparing for your appointment
While you may first consult with your family doctor, he or she may refer you to a doctor who specializes in sports medicine or orthopedic surgery.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor will also ask you to move your joint in a variety of different directions, to see if the joint can move smoothly through its normal range of motion.
Tests and diagnosis
Treatments and drugs
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, however, is effective for everybody. In children whose bones are still growing, the bone defect may heal with a period of rest and protection.
Adolescents participating in organized sports may benefit from education on the risks to their joints associated with overuse. Learning the proper mechanics and techniques of their sport and participating in strength training and stability training exercises may help reduce the chance of injury.
Last Updated: 2010-04-24
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