Occurring mainly in children and adolescents who are active in sports, osteochondritis dissecans is a joint condition in which bone located underneath the cartilage of a joint dies due to the lack of blood flow. This may cause the bone and cartilage to break loose, causing pain and hindering joint motion.

If the loosened piece of cartilage and bone stays in place, patients may have few or no symptoms. For young children whose bones are still developing, the injury may heal on its own.

Osteochondritis dissecans occurs most commonly in the knee but can also occur in other joints such as the elbow and ankle. The cause is unknown, although it is thought that the reduced blood flow to the end of the affected bone might result from repeated trauma that damage the bone. There might be a genetic component, making some people more inclined to develop the disorder.

In order to diagnose the condition, Dr. Maine will perform a thorough physical examination, and will most likely order at least one imaging test such as an x-ray and/or an MRI.


Symptoms depend on the joint that is affected, as well as the degree of injury. They may include: 

  • Pain triggered by physical activity like walking and running
  • Swelling and tenderness
  • Joint popping or locking
  • Joint weakness
  • Decreased range of motion


Management goals of osteochondritis dissecans is to restore normal functioning of the affected joint and to relieve pain. No one treatment for everyone and Dr. Maine will create an individualized treatment plan for each patient.

Initially, Dr. Maine will likely recommend conservative measures which may include:
  • Resting your joint by avoiding activities that may put stress on your joint
  • Wearing a splint, cast, or brace to immobilize the joint, or using crutches
  • Physical therapy