Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD or OD) is a joint disorder primarily of the subchondral bone in which cracks form in the articular cartilage and the underlying subchondral bone may happen. OCD usually causes pain during and after sports. In later stages of the disorder there will be swelling of the affected joint which catches and locks during movement. Physical examination in the early stages does only show pain as symptom, in later stages there could be an effusion, tenderness, and a crackling sound with joint movement.
OCD is caused by blood deprivation of the secondary physes around the bone core of the femoral condyle. This happens to the epiphyseal vessels under the influence of repetitive overloading of the joint during running and jumping sports. During growth such chondronecrotic areas grow into the subchondral bone. There it will show as bone defect area under articular cartilage. The bone will then possibly heal to the surrounding condylar bone in 50% of the cases. Or it will develop into a pseudarthrosis between condylar bone core and osteochondritis flake leaving the articular cartilage it supports prone to damage. The damage is executed by ongoing sport overload. The result is fragmentation (dissection) of both cartilage and bone, and the free movement of these bone and cartilage fragments within the joint space, causing pain, blockage and further damage. OCD has a typical anamnesis with pain during and after sports without any history of trauma. Some symptoms of late stages of osteochondritis dissecans are found with other diseases like rheumatoid disease of children and meniscal ruptures. However, the disease can be confirmed by X-rays, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
Non-surgical treatment is successful in 50% of the cases. If in late stages the lesion is unstable and the cartilage is damaged, surgical intervention is an option as the ability for articular cartilage to heal is limited. When possible, non-operative forms of management such as protected reduced or non-weight bearing and immobilization are used. Surgical treatment includes arthroscopic drilling of intact lesions, securing of cartilage flap lesions with pins or screws, drilling and replacement of cartilage plugs, stem cell transplantation, and in very difficult situation in adults joint replacement. After surgery rehabilitation is usually a two-stage process of unloading and physical therapy. Most rehabilitation programs combine efforts to protect the joint with muscle strengthening and range of motion. During an immobilization period, isometric exercises, such as straight leg raises, are commonly used to restore muscle loss without disturbing the cartilage of the affected joint. Once the immobilization period has ended, physical therapy involves continuous passive motion (CPM) and/or low impact activities, such as walking or swimming.
OCD occurs in 15 to 30 people per 100,000 in the general population each year. Although rare, it is an important cause of joint pain in physically active children and adolescents. Because their bones are still growing, adolescents are more likely than adults to recover from OCD; recovery in adolescents can be attributed to the bone's ability to repair damaged or dead bone tissue and cartilage in a process called bone remodeling. While OCD may affect any joint, the knee tends to be the most commonly affected, and constitutes 75% of all cases. Franz König coined the term osteochondritis dissecans in 1887, describing it as an inflammation of the bone–cartilage interface. Many other conditions were once confused with OCD when attempting to describe how the disease affected the joint, including osteochondral fracture, osteonecrosis, accessory ossification center, osteochondrosis, and hereditary epiphyseal dysplasia. Some authors have used the terms osteochondrosis dissecans and osteochondral fragments as synonyms for OCD.