Osteochondritis Dissecans

1 What is Osteochondritis Dissecans?

Osteochondritis dissecans is a condition of the joints that involves lack of blood flow that causes the bone underneath the cartilage to die. When this happens, the bone and cartilage break loose, resulting in pain and hindered joint movement. The condition often occurs in children and adolescents and is usually caused by a joint injury or months of training in high-impact activities. While it mostly affects the knee, Osteochondritis dissecans may also occur in ankles, elbows and other joints.

Doctors rate Osteochondritis dissecans in different stages depending on the severity and size of injury. If the affected cartilage and bone stays intact, little to no symptoms may be experienced. The condition usually heals in itself for young children. In some cases, however, surgery may be necessary.

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2 Symptoms

The symptoms of Osteochondritis dissecans depends on what joint is affected. The symptoms are usually triggered by various activities, such as climbing the stairs or a hill, or playing sports. Symptoms may include:

  • Swelling and tenderness. You may notice that there’s some tenderness around the affected area and may appear swollen, too.
  • Locking or popping joint. Loose fragments may get caught between the bones when moving, thus causing the joints to lock or pop.
  • Weakness in the joint. With this condition, the joint may feel weakened.
  • Decreased motion range. The affected limb may experience decreased range of motion, which makes you unable to stretch the limb completely.

If the joint pain becomes persistent, or there is swelling, see a doctor as soon as possible.

3 Causes

Experts still cannot point out the main cause of osteochondritis dissecans. But some theories state that it may be due to decreased flow of the blood in the area caused by repetitive trauma.

Genetics may also be a factor. 

4 Making a Diagnosis

Your family doctor may refer you to an orthopedic surgeon or a specialist in sports medicine to receive a diagnosis of osteochondritis dissecans. When visiting the doctor, you might want to make a list beforehand. Doing this will help maximize your time and get the most out of your doctor’s appointment. A written list with the following may help:

  • The symptoms, in full details
  • Medical history of the child and family
  • Medications, supplements, and vitamins the child is taking
  • Questions you might want to ask the doctor

Physical exam

A physical exam is vital for the check-up. Tt may involve the doctor pressing the affected area and checking if there’s any tenderness or swelling. Ligaments, and other structures around the joint will be checked, as well. You will be asked to move the affected joint in various directions to determine if the joint can still move effortlessly on this normal motion range.

Imaging tests

The doctor may request several imaging tests like:

  • X-rays. To see the abnormalities of bones in the joint, an X-ray will be done.
  • MRI. For detailed images of tissues, bone, and cartilage, and MRI scan may be done. MRI is usually done when the X-ray results show no abnormalities yet you are still experiencing symptoms on the area.
  • CT scan. The technology produces cross-section shots of internal structures by combining X-ray images that are taken from different angles. The scans provide highly-detailed images of the bone, making diagnosis easier and more precise.

5 Treatment

Osteochondritis dissecans treatment focuses on alleviating the pain and restoring the normal function of the affected area.

Treatment may also help reduce the risk of having osteoarthritis. In growing children, the condition usually heals on its own.

For those who need intervention, treatment may vary depending on the symptoms and their severity. Treatment usually involves.

6 Prevention

In order to prevent osteochondritis dissecans from occurring, you have to learn the all the techniques and mechanics that involve the sport. Most of the time, adolescents engaging in sports activities have higher risk of osteochondritis dissecans.

Using the proper gear, such as protective knee pads elbow pads, as well as doing strengthening and stability training can minimize possible joint injuries.

7 Risks and Complications

Sports-active children and adolescents aged 10 to 20 years are at higher risk of having osteochondritis dissecans.

The most common complication of Osteochondritis dissecans is osteoarthriris.