Osteochondritis dissecans of the knee: a practical guide for surgeons

Bone Joint J. 2016 Jun;98-B(6):723-9. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.98B6.36816.


Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is a condition for which the aetiology remains unknown. It affects subchondral bone and secondarily its overlying cartilage and is mostly found in the knee. It can occur in adults, but is generally identified when growth remains, when it is referred to as juvenile OCD. As the condition progresses, the affected subchondral bone separates from adjacent healthy bone, and can lead to demarcation and separation of its associated articular cartilage. Any symptoms which arise relate to the stage of the disease. Early disease without separation of the lesion results in pain. Separation of the lesion leads to mechanical symptoms and swelling and, in advanced cases, the formation of loose bodies. Early identification of OCD is essential as untreated OCD can lead to the premature degeneration of the joint, whereas appropriate treatment can halt the disease process and lead to healing. Establishing the stability of the lesion is a key part of providing the correct treatment. Stable lesions, particularly in juvenile patients, have greater propensity to heal with non-surgical treatment, whereas unstable or displaced lesions usually require surgical management. This article discusses the aetiology, clinical presentation and prognosis of OCD in the knee. It presents an algorithm for treatment, which aims to promote healing of native hyaline cartilage and to ensure joint congruity.

Take home message: Although there is no clear consensus as to the best treatment of OCD, every attempt should be made to retain the osteochondral fragment when possible as, with a careful surgical technique, there is potential for healing even in chronic lesions Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2016;98-B:723-9.

Keywords: Articular cartilage; Knee; Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Arthroscopy
  • Conservative Treatment
  • Humans
  • Immobilization
  • Joint Loose Bodies / surgery
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology*
  • Knee Joint / surgery*
  • Orthopedic Fixation Devices
  • Orthopedic Procedures
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans / classification
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans / diagnosis
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans / physiopathology*
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans / therapy*