Osteochondritis or Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is a condition that affects s such as ankles, knees, and elbows of children and adolescents. It causes pieces of bone underneath the cartilage of a joint to crack, loosen and separate from the entire bone.
It is the lack of sufficient blood supply to the bone that leads to the bone fragments chipping away from the joint surface. The cartilage can, in some cases, be affected too. The dead bone and loose cartilage are suspended in the joint, and cause severe pain and may limit joint motion.
Osteochondritis usually affects one joint. Although, in rare cases, some patients may develop osteochondritis on more than one joint.
What causes Osteochondritis?
It is known that the disruption of blood supply to the joint results in the weakening of the bone at the joint surface. However, the exact cause of the interruption in blood supply is not yet known.
Exposure to repetitive trauma and stress on the joint could be a contributor.
Signs and Symptoms of Osteochondritis
- Pain on joint motion. The patient might experience a dull pain that gradually gets worse with an increase in physical activity. Such activities may include climbing stairs, running or even walking.
- The affected joint and its surroundings might appear swollen and tender.
- The injured joint may lock or pop in certain positions during movement due to the loose bone fragment getting stuck between the moving bones of the joint.
- A general feeling of weakness of the injured joint.
- A decrease in the range of motion of the injured joint. Due to immense joint pain, one might not be able to completely straighten the joint.
A podiatrist can observe the joint motion of the ankle and suggest Osteochondritis if they notice signs of joint popping or locking. A joint locks as the free cartilage and bone fragment get stuck between the moving joint, causing the entire limb to lose its range of motion.
A definitive diagnosis can be carried out by employing the use of imaging techniques such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or CT Scans. A dye can be injected into the injured joint, for contrast, before an X-Ray is carried out (arthrogram).
Treatment Options for Osteochondritis
The goal of treatment for osteochondritis is to relieve pain and restore normal functioning of the injured joint.
Since the condition commonly affects children and adolescents with developing bones, the defect may correct itself with time.
While on the road to recovery, your podiatrist may recommend the following treatment options:
- Resting the injured joint. It is crucial to avoid all kinds of strenuous activity that put the injured joint under undue pressure and strain. A splint or a cast may be worn to immobilize the joint as it heals completely.
- Taking part in physical therapy. It is important to continually exercise and strengthen the muscles of the affected joint as it heals, and after surgery. Stretching and strengthening exercises are preferred.
If conservative treatment options are not successful over a period of about four to six months, your podiatrist may turn to surgical treatment. Arthroscopic surgery may be carried out. During this process, the loose bone fragment and cartilage are removed. Partially loose bone fragments and cartilage are fastened into place using screws.
Since repetitive, strenuous activity might have led to the disruption of blood supply to the joints, children and adolescents can be educated on the risks of taking part in such activities.
Wearing of protective gear and engaging in strength and stability training can help lower the chances of developing osteochondritis.
Visit your local podiatrist for more information on osteochondritis.