Does Osteochondritis Dissecans of the Knee Require Traditional Surgery?

When it comes to injuries, we understand that our patients want to avoid traditional surgery whenever possible. Compared to minimally invasive procedures, traditional surgery is much more difficult for patients to recover from and increases their risk of complications. It’s common for traditional surgery to be recommended to treat osteochondritis dissecans of the knee, but is that always necessary? Keep reading to find out.

What is osteochondritis dissecans and how do I know if I have it?

Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) is a condition that affects your joints. It can develop in the elbows, ankles, and other joints, but most commonly affects the knees. OCD most commonly affects children and adolescents, although it can develop in adults as well. 

Your joints have bones covered by cartilage which can die due to lack of blood flow. Once this happens, the bone and the cartilage may break loose, leading to pain and inhibited joint motion. This is what we call osteochondritis dissecans. 

The symptoms of this condition may be felt after an injury or after months of high-impact activity. OCD will typically only affect one joint but it can potentially develop in multiple joints.

Surgery is most commonly recommended when the loose bone fragment gets caught between the moving parts of the joint or if you feel constant pain. 

Causes of OCD

There’s no clear reason why blood flow to a joint might become disrupted, but there are a few activities that osteochondritis dissecans may be connected to, such as repetitive stress or trauma to the joint caused by physical activity or genetic predisposition.

Signs of OCD

It’s possible for the bone and cartilage to die without causing pain. If they remain in place, you will have few or possibly even no symptoms. 

However, the most common symptoms consist of the following:

  • Pain in the knee triggered by physical activity.
  • Swollen and tender skin around the knee.
  • The knee may pop or stick in a certain position if the loose fragment becomes lodged between bones during movement.
  • The knee may become weak and feel like it’s “giving way”.
  • You may experience decreased range of motion in the knee. This is most commonly seen in an inability to straighten the affected leg fully.

Does OCD in the knee require surgery?

As is the case with most conditions, conservative treatment like resting and avoiding high-impact activities until symptoms resolve. If you fail to get relief, your doctor will most likely recommend further conservative treatment like using crutches or splinting or casting the affected leg.

Surgery may also be recommended if a lesion separates from the affected bone and joint cartilage, moving around within the joint. Additionally, if the lesion is larger than 1 centimeter in diameter, surgery may be recommended to move it.

There are a few different traditional options that are usually recommended to treat osteochondritis dissecans:

  • Drilling into the affected area creates new pathways for blood vessels to nourish and heal the joint.
  • Using pins and screws to hold the lesion in place.
  • Grafting new bone and cartilage to replace the damaged bone and cartilage.

Fortunately, here at the Center for Sports Medicine and Wellness, we offer a variety of non-surgical and minimally invasive options for treating osteochondritis dissecans. We understand that the last thing our patients want to deal with is long, painful recovery periods. Keep reading to learn more about how our services can help you avoid that.

Non-Surgical and Minimally Invasive Options

Autologous Stem Cell Injection is a therapy that utilizes a patient’s bone marrow or fat, both of which are rich sources of stem cells. The bone marrow or fat is collected, filtered, centrifuged, and injected into injured areas. Preliminary work shows level 2 and 3 evidence that it is as safe as other injection-based treatments, poses no risk of tumor genesis, and in numerous retrospective and prospective case series shows excellent clinical outcomes and objective healing of multiple musculoskeletal tissues. It can be used to help heal damaged cartilage, such as in OCD, and is a non-surgical option.

Percutaneous procedures are minimally invasive procedures that allow access to inner organs or tissue via a needle puncture of the skin instead of an “open” approach. Using minimally invasive tools and techniques, we can visualize and repair the affected area using one or more small incisions. This approach has many benefits, including reduced risk of injury to surrounding healthy soft tissues, quicker recovery, and minimal scarring.

Bone Marrow Concentrate (BMC) is made by collecting bone marrow aspirate from a patient. BMC is usually collected from the pelvic bone or another large bone. BMC is particularly beneficial for orthopedic medicine because bone marrow contains blood and stem cells. Some of these stem cells are able to create new tissue such as bone, cartilage, and more, making this non-surgical option very helpful in healing and treating conditions like OCD. 

Treatment for Osteochondritis Dissecans in Glen Mills, PA

Our team at the Center for Sports Medicine and Wellness is proud to be experts in the most advanced minimally invasive and non-surgical treatments for our patients. If you’d like to learn more about our services or contact us to schedule a consultation, please call our office in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, at (610) 459-4200 or fill out our form. We welcome your inquiry and we look forward to helping you get back to the game of life!

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