Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is a joint-related condition that most frequently develops in sports-active children, teenagers, and young adults.  OCD occurs when a small piece of bone, beneath the joint cartilage, dies due to a restriction of blood supply.

Introduction

Osteochondritis Dissecans is a joint-related condition that most frequently develops in sports-active children, teenagers, and young adults.  OCD occurs when a small piece of bone, beneath the joint cartilage, dies due to a restriction of blood supply. When a bone dies it begins to deteriorate which causes it to crack, loosen and, along with the protective cartilage, break free from the joint causing pain and limiting motion.  Physicians cannot pinpoint a specific cause for the disruption of blood flow, but generally agree that most cases are the result of repetitive trauma— often due to minor, unperceived sports-related injuries that, over time, minimize blood flow and kill the bone tissue. The condition sometimes affects more than one family member, indicating that there may be a genetic link.

At the onset of Osteochondritis Dissecans, a patient will likely feel considerable pain, discomfort and swelling at the joint. The OCD flare-up is often precipitated by a sport or physical activity such as running or jumping. As the condition worsens, the joint may catch and lock. Other symptoms may include an excess of fluid in the joint area, which will increase swelling, a limited range of motion, enhanced stiffness following inactivity, and a noticeable grating, cracking or popping sound when flexing the joint. The severity of the injury is predicated on the size of the lesion, or whether the bone fragment is partially or fully detached. If for some reason, the loosened cartilage and bone segment remain in place, symptoms could be light, or even go unnoticed. Often, in young children whose bones are still growing, the condition may actually heal itself.

During examination, an orthopedist will check for undue swelling, tenderness, and limited range of motion. An x-ray is essential for OCD diagnosis and an MRI or CT scan may be recommended to fully evaluate the extent of cartilage damage or to pinpoint the location of loose fragments.

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