Osteochondritis Dissecans of the KneeOsteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) refers to damage of the bone underneath the cartilage in the knee. The damage may or may not also affect the cartilage. Cartilage is the tough, smooth covering on the ends of bones at a joint. OCD most commonly affects the end of the leg bone at the knee, but can also affect the knee cap (patella).

OCD usually starts as a mild aching pain that becomes worse over time. Sometimes the pain can occur after an injury.

When OCD occurs in a child who is still growing, it is likely to heal itself without surgery. However, over time juvenile OCD may contribute to further joint damage and premature development of osteoarthritis.

What Causes It?

The specific cause is not known.

How Is It Diagnosed?

X-rays are most often used. Your doctor may order magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to determine the amount of damage or to rule out other problems.

How Is It Treated?

It is important to start physical therapy (PT) quickly following injury. PT can safely address pain, range of motion, and strength while protecting the joint as it heals. The goal of PT is to help your child return to his or her previous activities. Your doctor may also recommend a brace to reduce pressure on the knee and protect the joint.

When Is Surgery Needed?

When the cartilage is damaged, detached from the bone, or the joint is unstable, surgery may be needed. Surgery may also be needed if conservative treatment fails.

What Should My Child Not Do?

Your child should avoid activities that cause or increase pain. He or she should also avoid running, jumping and any other high impact activities to prevent further injury or progression of the disease until given permission by the doctor or PT.