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What is an Osteochondral Defect (OCD)?

Osteochondral defects are a problem associated with damage to any part of the articular surface of the knee joint, compromising the connective tissue alone or in connection with the underlying subchondral bone. This condition is likely to cause chronic knee pain and can be linked to anything that will cause the bones or cartilage to loosen from each other. Damage and degeneration of the articular structures can severely limit knee joint function and mobility.

Symptoms of osteochondral defects

Osteochondral defects in the knee are due to lesions of the cartilage and bone. If there is damage to the articulating structures of the knee, you will know it. A major symptom of this condition is severe knee pain. Small tasks such as walking to the bathroom or standing at the kitchen sink will be painful if you are experiencing osteochondral defect symptoms. This is because when standing or walking, the force of the entire weight of your body is directed towards the knees. If there is some form of damage to the knee joint involving the articular structures, these structures will not be able to protect the knee and stabilize it as usual. The force of the weight of the body will overwhelm the damaged cartilage and/or bones of the knee joint. Engaging in more rigorous physical activity will be out of the question. There are some other symptoms to look out for if an osteochondral defect is suspected. These symptoms can be the result of other injuries to the knee as well so a prompt, accurate diagnosis is necessary. Other symptoms of osteochondral defect knee pain include:

  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Warmth and redness over the area of the knee joint
  • Increased body temperature or fever as a result of the body’s attempt to fight infection of the area. Infection is always a risk with any damage to the body, be it internal or external. External contamination is much more likely, however.
  • Catching and locking of the knee joint
  • Chronic pain when any pressure is put on the knee
Low section of sportswoman suffering from knee pain

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What Causes Osteochondral Defects?

There is no specific cause of an osteochondral defect or other articular cartilage injury diagnoses in the knee. The condition can be either congenital in nature or caused by something throughout the course of life. In children, it is especially important to monitor their growth and development in the case that an osteochondral defect condition presents itself. Besides having a diagnosis from birth that can cause connective tissue to be more prone to articular cartilage injuries, this condition can also be onset by:

  • Repetitive knee injuries
  • Excessive stress on the knee joint
  • Abnormal development in the legs and knees that begins at a time other than birth

Some cases of an osteochondral defect diagnosis are more severe and will require more care than others. Measure your child’s growth frequently in order to ensure there is no irregular development and lessen the chance of developing chronic knee pain throughout the course of life.

If You Are Experiencing Symptoms, Schedule an Appointment Dr. Burke Orthopedics Immediately.

How to prevent osteochondral defects

Every part of the knee joint which consists of the bones, ligaments, tendons and other articular cartilage has a physical connection to one another. Patients can prevent or lessen the risks of developing a problem in the knee joint that can lead to osteochondral defects by preserving these connections. If osteochondral defects are present at birth, or an infant is diagnosed with a condition such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (a condition that affects connective tissue causing hypermobility of joints), there are still things that can be done to lessen the pain that may occur throughout life. Pain caused by injuries and abnormal development of articular cartilage and the underlying bones from congenital conditions can be lessened by:

  • Maintaining an even balance of between both knees, lessening the amount of force on one knee at a time
  • Rest for the knee after any injury
  • Building and strengthening the muscles around your knees for more support.
  • Strength training itself not only makes the muscles stronger, but the connective tissues and underlying bone as well
  • Losing weight to relieve any unnecessary pressure and force on the knee joints when standing and/or walking
  • Regular doctor appointments as children start growth spurts
Knee pain professional athlete sport injury - sports running knee acciden on man runner. Sprained knee joint, arthritis. Closeup of legs, muscle and knee outdoors.

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Disclaimer: Please note all medical information contained within this website should never be interpreted as a diagnosis or recommendation of treatment. If a diagnosis is needed, contact Dr. Burke Orthopedics for a personalized consultation. Information shared in testimonials and reviews are specific to that particular patient and may not be representative of the experience of others.