Osteochondritis Dissecans

Osteochondritis Dissecans

For more than 90 years, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children (TSRHC) has focused on clinical care, research and medical education for caring children with orthopedic conditions. These include scoliosis, clubfoot, limb-length differences and hand conditions, as well as young athletes with sports-related injuries and conditions.

Clinical Care - In the TSRHC Center for Excellence in Sports Medicine, we are experts at diagnosing and treating athletes and non-athletes with osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) and other cartilage problems.

Research - We continuously study this problem with our research at TSRHC and as part of a national study group called Research in Osteochondritis of the Knee (ROCK). To learn more about our research projects, including our work with ROCK, visit our sports medicine research page or read our latest OCD article in Arthroscopy Techniques. 

Education – Frequently, our providers teach other professionals, including experienced orthopedic surgeons and future medical providers, about OCD. Dr. Henry Ellis and Dr. Philip Wilson have published a video for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons to learn surgical techniques for treatment of advanced cases of OCD.

What is osteochondritis dissecans?

The surfaces of the bones in the joints are covered with smooth tissue called articular cartilage. Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is a problem in this cartilage and the bone just beneath it.

What causes OCD?

We are not sure what causes this in some patients. It could be a change in the blood supply to the bone and cartilage. Sometimes there is an injury that causes the changes. This is called an osteochondral fracture or injury.

Where does it occur?

Most commonly, OCD is seen in the knee. The elbow and ankle are the next most common locations. Repetitive motions, or overuse injuries, in these joints put pressure on the cartilage and bones that cause injury over longer periods of time.

Who gets this problem?

We see OCD most often in patients that are 12-16 years old. Though it can happen to anyone, we see this problem in athletes that perform repetitive motions like running, jumping, pitching or certain motions in gymnastics.

What are the symptoms of OCD?

There may be pain in the joint that gets worse with activity. Or, there may be symptoms like popping, clicking, or swelling in the joint.

How is OCD treated?

In early stages, your provider may recommend rest and sometimes a brace. The tissues may be able to recover on their own. In later stages, more aggressive treatments are required. Pediatric orthopedic surgeons, like Philip L. Wilson, M.D. and Henry B. Ellis, M.D., treat OCD with arthroscopy, minimally invasive joint surgery. The treatment is decided after a thorough investigation of the tissues with x-rays, an MRI or a diagnostic surgery. For a detailed look at the procedure, watch this surgical training video produced by Texas Scottish Rite Hospital.

Are some activities safe for athletes with OCD?

Yes, in many cases, activities like swimming, diving, biking, golf and yoga are good alternatives for young athletes. Our goal is to keep children active, but to protect joints that are at risk of long term problems from overuse injuries.