Knee Osteochondritis Dissecans Lesions

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Although osteochondritis dissecans lesions can occur in several joints, including those in the elbow, ankle, shoulder and hips, the condition commonly affects the cartilage of the knee that connects to the bone. When a piece of the cartilage separates along with the thin layer of bone due to inadequate blood supply, a negative chain reaction results. The separated fragments, often referred to as “joint mice,” eventually lead to knee osteochondritis dissecans lesions within the lateral aspect of the medial femoral condyle. In turn, a patient experiences joint pain, stiffness and inflammation in the knee.

At OrthoAspen, we’re dedicated to getting our active Aspen patients back to the the sports, activities, and liveliness they’re used to. Our elite-grade specialists are educated and skilled at treating knee osteochondritis dissecans lesions utilizing non-surgical modalities whenever possible.

Causes & Symptoms

Knee OCD commonly occurs in tweens, teens and young adults between the ages of 10 and 20 years old. In fact, a scientific journal cited that 55% to 60% of juvenile osteochondritis dissecans (JOCD) cases result from regular involvement in sports. Among sports commonly connected to knee osteochondritis dissecans lesions are gymnastics, baseball, skateboarding, snowboarding and skiing.

Symptoms of Knee OCD vary, including:

  • Joint pain
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Joint popping or locking
  • Difficulty walking
  • Pain that increases with activity or after periods of rest

The appearance of osteochondritis dissecans in several family members may indicate that the condition is hereditary, so your OrthoAspen physician will begin by going over your personal and family medical history. In addition to a physical exam, an X-ray of both the right and left knee will be ordered to check for abnormality in the joint space and to compare them. Your doctor may also request a CT or MRI scan to determine the location of loose fragments within the joint.


If a diagnosis for knee OCD has been made, our OrthoAspen knee experts can recommend various treatments. Ultimately, goals of treatment are to relieve knee OCD symptoms and stop or impede the progression of degeneration of the joint.

Conservative treatment approaches for knee OCD include:

  • Pain medications
  • Immobilization for one to two weeks

In the event surgery is suggested to correct osteochondritis dissecans, your OrthoAspen surgeon will likely utilize open surgery or arthroscopic techniques.

Some knee OCD surgical procedures include:

  • Drilling
    Small holes are drilled into the bone which allows the growth of new blood vessels in the defect area, promoting blood flow into the defect area. Healing results in the response and formation of new cartilage cells inside the lesion.
  • Open Reduction Internal Fixation
    An incision is made in front of the joint to allow the surgeon to see the joint. The loose bodies are then removed. Internal fixation involves fixing the fragments using internal fixators such as metal screws, pins or wires.
  • Bone Grafting
    A bone graft is placed on the damaged site to repair the damaged area or replace the missing bone. Autograft (harvested from the same individual) or allograft (taken from the bone bank) may be required to help in the growth of a new bone.
  • Osteochondral Grafting
    Healthy cartilage plugs from the non-weight bearing areas of the joint are transferred into the damaged areas of the joint in mosaic pattern, allowing the newly implanted bone and cartilage to grow in the area of defect. Grafts may be taken from the same individual (autograft) or from a donor or bone bank (allograft).
  • Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI)
    Healthy cartilage cells are harvested from the non-weight-bearing joint of the patient and cultured in the laboratory. The cultured cartilage tissue patch will be implanted into the defected area which also promotes the growth of new cartilage.

No matter what treatment pathway is suggested to address knee osteochondritis dissecans lesions, you can rest assured that our OrthoAspen team has everything needed to help you recovery as quickly and safely as possible, including post-surgery and recovery support.

If you’d like to set up a consultation with one of our OrthoAspen elite-grade specialists, simply click here to begin or call us any time at, 970-544-1289.


Visit OrthoAspen in two convenient locations
Aspen Clinic
Aspen Valley Hospital
0401 Castle Creek Rd., Suite 2100,

Aspen, CO 81611
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400
Basalt Clinic
Midvalley Medical Center
1450 E. Valley Rd., Suite 201,

Basalt, CO 81621
+(970) 544-1289
+(970) 544-1400