osteochondritis dissecans

What is osteochondritis dissecans?
Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is a joint condition that occurs when a small piece of bone and cartilage becomes nearly detached from its origin and loses its blood supply. It is most common in the knee but can occur in other joints such as the elbow and ankle.

What causes osteochondritis dissecans?
The exact cause of the disruption of the blood supply resulting in OCD is unknown. However, doctors believe that OCD occurs when there is repetitive trauma or stresses to the bone over time. Sports that involve jumping, throwing and rapid changes in direction seem to increase your risk of osteochondritis dissecans.

What are the symptoms of osteochondritis dissecans?
The most common initial symptoms of OCD are pain and swelling of the joint. Other symptoms may include joint popping or locking, joint weakness, and decreased range of motion.

What is the treatment for osteochondritis dissecans?
Treatment for OCD depends on the age of the patient, the size and location of the lesion, and the severity of the symptoms. Basically younger patients with smaller lesions and fewer symptoms are likely to need rest and immobilization to cure the lesion while older patients with larger lesions and worse symptoms likely require surgery to cure the lesion. Depending on the location and symptoms “young” for OCD is about 13 years old for boys and 12 years old for girls. Non-surgical treatment for OCD is usually a cast or brace that immobilizes the involved joint. Surgical treatment is usually placement of “headless compression screws” that secure the lesion to its native spot and compress the lesion to the surrounding bone which has a good blood supply.

There are different surgical techniques for treating OCD, depending upon the individual case.

  • Holding the lesion in place with internal fixation (screws).
  • Replacing the damaged area with a new piece of bone and cartilage (called a graft). This can help regenerate healthy bone and cartilage in the area damaged by OCD.

How long is the recovery time?
Total recovery time varies from patient to patient depending on the severity of the case, the patient’s age, and the appropriate course of treatment. In nonsurgical cases, most patients will start to feel better over a 2-4 month course of rest. In cases where surgical treatment is recommended, most patients will experience a recovery time of about 4-5 months, which includes several weeks of physical therapy to regain strength and motion in the affected joint.


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