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How Dangerous Is Osteochondritis Dissecans & Does It Spread?

Osteochondritis dissecans is an idiopathic disease resulting in separation and instability of a segment of bones from cartilage and starts to die. It is one of the most common conditions noticed in children and adolescents typically after an injury and extensive sports activities.

Doctors evaluate osteochondritis dissecans based on the impact of the injury whether the joint is partly or entirely detached and when the fragment still stays in place. When there is no shift in the cartilage position, the patient experience less or perhaps no pain or swelling.

How Dangerous Is Osteochondritis Dissecans?

The cause of Osteochondritis dissecans is mostly unknown in older adults, but the possible explanation suggests that this may be due to possible trauma or stressed joints. Although this is a disease that has the potential to affect any part of the body yet 75% of cases involve the knee. When it starts to happen you may notice pain, swelling, tenderness, popping sound, weakness with decreased range of motion.

Symptoms continue to worsen when you don’t make changes to your lifestyle and continue with your daily activity such as running and jumping. The condition usually affects one joint however several cases are noticed where they experience problems in both the joints.

Most cases of osteochondritis dissecans resolve on its own in the growing children when the bones grow and mature. However, in older children and adults, Osteochondritis dissecans may produce serious consequences. Especially the Osteochondritis dissecans lesions have increased risks of separating from their surrounding bones and cartilages. These conditions don’t improve with treatment and physical therapies instead may require surgical treatment.1, 2

Osteochondritis dissecans can enhance your probability of developing osteoarthritis in affected cartilage and joints. They generally start to worsen after regular physical activities such as climbing stairs and competing in sports activities. Sometimes your pain can be locking and feeling numbness in the affected joints.

A study was conducted on an adolescent athlete with Osteochondritis dissecans who had loosening and failure of cartilage. The patient was treated through surgery however six months after surgery he developed acute pain and swelling. The patient was able to resume his sporting activity when the Osteochondritis dissecans lesion has cured, and any disruptive retained hardware has been removed.3

Does Osteochondritis Dissecans Spread?

Osteochondritis dissecans is a common but not a self-limiting condition and fragment of bones degenerate when there is a disruption in the blood flow. For unstable lesions or stable lesions that have failed a drilling procedure, your doctor may recommend surgery for fixing the lesion. The primary purpose of fixing the lesion is to restore the blood supply and enhance the range of motion.

The inflammation may originally spread but often returns to a definite focal point as the lesion progresses. The condition left untreated leads to degenerative changes and can be very painful that can make your child limiting movements of the joints.

Most children with juvenile osteochondritis dissecans show improved symptoms in the long-term. Nevertheless, juvenile Osteochondritis dissecans can result in arthritis at a very early age. Several factors can influence the spread of the symptoms that can be a warning sign of the overall irritability of the lesion. For instance, a gradual onset of condition responds very well to the treatment however in the absence of contradictions, a sudden onset may need a multitude of treatment such as physical therapy, medications and, surgical treatment in worst cases. Spread to the condition does not occur in the immunocompetent child. 4, 5


  1. “Osteochondritis Dissecans.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 7 Sept. 2018, mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/osteochondritis-dissecans/symptoms-causes/syc-20375887.
  2. “Osteochondritis Dissecans – OrthoInfo – AAOS.” OrthoInfo, orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases–conditions/osteochondritis-dissecans/.
  3. Hixon, Allen L., and Lisa M. Gibbs. “Osteochondritis Dissecans: A Diagnosis Not to Miss.” American Family Physician, 1 Jan. 2000, www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0101/p151.html.
  4. Tidy, Colin. “Osteochondritis Dissecans. About Osteochondritis Dissecans.” info, 10 June 2016, patient.info/doctor/osteochondritis-dissecans.
  5. OCD (Osteochondritis Dissecans) Spreading?, www.kneeguru.co.uk/KNEEtalk/index.php?topic=39436.0.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 20, 2020

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