Classification Systems for Knee Osteochondritis Dissecans: A Systematic Review

Cartilage. 2022 Jul-Sep;13(3):19476035221121789. doi: 10.1177/19476035221121789.


Objective: Aim of this systematic review was to describe all classification systems for knee osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) lesions, evaluating their accuracy and reliability, as well as their use in the literature on knee OCD.

Design: A systematic review of the literature was performed in July 2021 on PubMed, WebOfScience, and Cochrane Collaboration (library) to describe all published classification systems for knee OCD lesions and quantify the use of these classifications in the literature.

Results: Out of 1,664 records, 30 studies on 33 OCD classifications systems were identified, describing 11 radiographic, 13 MRI, and 9 arthroscopic classifications. The search included 193 clinical studies applying at least one OCD classification, for a total of 7,299 knee OCD cases. Radiographic classifications were applied to 35.8%, MRI to 35.2%, and arthroscopic classifications to 64.2% of the included studies. Among these, in the last two decades, the International Cartilage Repair Society's (ICRS) arthroscopic classification was the most described approach in studies on knee OCD. Overall, there is a lack of data on accuracy and reliability of the available systems.

Conclusions: Several classifications are available, with ICRS being the most used system over the time period studied. Arthroscopy allows to confirm lesion stability, but noninvasive imaging approaches are the first line to guide patient management. Among these, radiographic classifications are still widely used, despite being partially superseded by MRI, because of its capability to detect the earliest disease stages and to distinguish stable from unstable lesions, and thus to define the most suitable conservative or surgical approach to manage patients affected by knee OCD.

Level of evidence: Systematic review, level IV.

Keywords: cartilage; classification; knee; osteochondral; osteochondritis dissecans.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Arthroscopy / methods
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans* / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans* / pathology
  • Reproducibility of Results