What Is Osteochondral Defect?
Osteochondral Defect is the name given to a condition most noticeable in the knee, in which a part of the bone and cartilage gets separated from the knee joint resulting in chronic pain in the knee and difficulties performing normal activities of daily living.1 The knee joint is perhaps one of the busiest joints in the body as it bears most of the body weight when standing. It is made up of bones, muscles, ligaments and cartilage which provide the much needed stability to the joint and holds the joint together. Osteochondral Defect is a condition seen mostly in children. The pain caused by Osteochondral Defect can begin as a child, but usually tends to continue until late adulthood.
What exactly causes Osteochondral Defect is something which is still a matter of research, but majority of the cases of Osteochondral Defect arise from repetitive knee injuries or excessive stress on the knees due to activities like playing contact sports or lifting heavy objects. In some cases abnormal bony development since childhood has also resulted in the development of Osteochondral Defect.
Causes of Osteochondral Defect
As stated, it is still not known exactly how or why Osteochondral Defect develops. This defect is linked to any condition that causes damage to bones or cartilage in the knee joint and separates them from the joint resulting in pain and difficulty carrying out daily chores. Some of the other causes that have been linked to the development of Osteochondral Defect are:
- Repetitive knee injuries.
- Excessive stress on the knee joint.
- Abnormal development in the area of the lower extremities, especially the legs and the knees.
The extent to which Osteochondral Defect affects an individual is variable in that while some cases may be mild and the individual is able to function more or less normally there are certain cases where the knee pain is so intense that it prohibits the individual from carrying out any activities and the individual basically becomes dependent on others for any activity individual wishes to do due to Osteochondral Defect.
Symptoms of Osteochondral Defect
Excruciating knee pain is the primary symptom for an Osteochondral Defect. An individual with an Osteochondral Defect will have a tough time standing or walking for any period of time. Additionally, an individual will also have swelling of the knee along with inflammation, frequent episodes of locking and catching of the knee joint, pain with any sort of pressure being applied to the knee due to Osteochondral Defect.
Treatment of Osteochondral Defect
In order to treat Osteochondral Defect, it is extremely essential for the condition to be diagnosed early. Thus, if a child complains of frequent knee pains and there are frequent episodes of catching or locking of the knee, then the child needs to be taken to an orthopedist to rule out Osteochondral Defect. The treatment for Osteochondral Defect depends on the size of the defect and whether the overlying cartilage is damaged. For small sized defects if the overlying cartilage is intact, then retrograde drilling of the defect is done and the space is filled with bone cement. By doing this, the bone defect is treated without causing any damage to the overlying cartilage.
Micro-drilling is a procedure that is used when the cartilage gets damaged as a result of Osteochondral Defect. This stimulates the development of fibrocartilage, which ultimately replaces the damaged cartilage and treats the condition. While these procedures are effective for small sized defects, defects which are large are basically treated with a procedure called as OATS or Osteochondral Autologous Transfer. In this procedure, a graft of bone and cartilage is taken from another region in the knee and is replaced with the damaged cartilage and bone at the site of the Osteochondral Defect.
Prevention of Osteochondral Defect
The best way to prevent Osteochondral Defect is to take care of the knee, especially after a knee injury as not paying proper attention to the knee injury may cause damage to the cartilage and bone resulting in Osteochondral Defect. Thus, as soon as there is a knee injury, especially in children then resting the knee and getting it treated is the way to prevent Osteochondral Defect.
Additionally, when a child goes through growth spurts, it is important to take the child to the physician regularly to get the knees checked out for any abnormality, which may ultimately lead to the development of Osteochondral Defect.