Osteochondritis dissecans

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is the end result of the aseptic separation of an osteochondral fragment with the gradual fragmentation of the articular surface. It is often associated with intraarticular loose bodies.

Onset is between childhood and middle age, with the majority of patients being between 10 and 40 years of age, with approximately a 2:1 male to female ratio 3.

  • repetitive throwing / valgus stress and gymnastics / weight bearing on upper extremity
    • valgus stress / compressive force on the vulnerable  chondroepiphysis of the radiocapitellar joint in skeletally immature patients is supported as the etiology for OCD of the capitellum 8
  • ankle sprain / instability
    • In the talus, 96% of lateral lesions and 62% of medial lesions were associated with direct trauma 9
  • competitive athletics 10
  • family history: epiphyseal dysplasia has been postulated as a subset of OCD 11

Symptoms are variable and range from asymptomatic to significant pain and locking (suggesting loose body formation). Joint effusions and synovitis are often present.

The exact etiology is uncertain, with the majority of cases thought to be the result of trauma 4. In up to 40% of cases, patients give a history of trauma as the inciting event 3. Other postulated causes include 4:

Many joints can be affected, but typical locations include:

See osteochondral injury staging and osteochondritis dissecans surgical staging.

Plain radiographs should be the first step in the evaluation of knee pain, however, unless advanced changes are present and/or a meticulous technique employed, early findings of osteochondritis dissecans may be occult.  The intercondylar "notch" view is very helpful.

Early findings include subtle flattening or indistinct radiolucency about the cortical surface. As the process progresses, more pronounced contour abnormalities, fragmentation and density changes (both lucency and sclerosis) become evident. If an osteochondral fragment becomes unstable and displaced, then donor site and intra-articular fragment may be seen.

CT has the advantage of sectional imaging through the joint and multiplanar reformats. Findings are similar to those seen on plain film.

MRI is the test of choice, with high sensitivity (92%) and specificity (90%) 4 in the detection of separation of the osteochondral fragment. This is essential in determining management.

  • T1
    • variable signal overall with intermediate to low signal adjacent to fragment and variable fragment signal
  • T2
    • the high signal line demarcating fragment from bone usually indicates an unstable lesion however false positives can result from edema 6
    • low signal loose bodies, outlined by high signal fluid
    • donor defect filled with high signal fluid
    • high signal subchondral cysts
  • persistent pain with activity: ~ 2/3 following surgical management of knee and 40% following surgical management of elbow 12,13
  • articular incongruity 13
  • early degenerative joint disease 13

Spontaneous healing is usual unless there is an unstable fragment, and treatment revolves around rest and immobilization for up to a year 5.

When the fragment is unstable or displaced, without treatment patients are susceptible to premature secondary osteoarthritis. Numerous surgical approaches have been tried, including drilling, bone grafting, replacement of bone fragment and pinning 5.

When surgery is performed, the results in most cases are only "fair". 35-70% of patients achieve a "good to excellent" clinical outcome 3 but even in these cases, the majority develop osteoarthritis.

It was first described by the German surgeon Franz Konig in 1888.

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Article information

rID: 1797
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD)
  • OCD
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) : general
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OD)

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1
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  • Case 2
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  • Osteochondritis d...
    Case 3: PD
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  • Case 4
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  • Osteochondritis d...
    Case 5
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  • Case 6
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  • Osteochondritis d...
    Case 7
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  • OCD

Coronal STAIR
    Case 8
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  • OCD

Ankle- Talus
    Case 9
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  • Case 10
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  • Case 11: involving patella
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  • Case 12: involving hip joint
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  • Case 13: involving ankle
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  • Case 14
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  • Case 15: OCD of the talus
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  • Case 16
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  • Case 17: hallux IP joint
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  • Case 18
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  • Case 19: glenoid
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