Osteochondrosis is a group of conditions characterized by a loss of blood supply to a bone, leading to the breakdown and regrowth of bone tissue. Osteochondritis dissecans is one type.

Osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans can lead to joint pain and swelling.

“Osteo” comes from the Ancient Greek word “osteon,” meaning bone. “Chondr” comes from the Ancient Greek word for cartilage.

Osteochondrosis is a group of conditions characterized by a loss of blood supply to part of a bone (called avascular necrosis), which leads to its degeneration and the regrowth of new bone.

Osteochondritis dissecans is a type of osteochondrosis where a flap of bone detaches from the underlying bone due to the loss of its blood supply.

Read on to learn more about osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans.

Here’s a look at the symptoms of osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans.

Osteochondrosis symptoms

Osteochondrosis can cause symptoms like:

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease symptoms

The most well-known form of osteochondrosis is Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease. It’s a rare childhood disease that occurs when the blood supply to the head to your thighbone is disrupted. This can lead to the collapse of the ball-and-socket joint.

Symptoms of Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease include:

  • development of a limp without a known cause
  • pain in the hip or groin or referred to a:
    • knee
    • thigh
    • abdomen
  • pain that gets worse with activity
  • painful muscle spasms

Osgood-Schlatter disease symptoms

Another well-known form of osteochondrosis is Osgood-Schlatter disease. This causes pain and swelling below the kneecap in adolescents. Pain is usually worse with running, jumping, or climbing stairs.

Osteochondritis dissecans symptoms

Osteochondritis dissecans most commonly affects your:

  • knee
  • ankle
  • elbow

The most common symptoms are pain and swelling in a joint brought on by physical activity. Advanced cases may cause joint locking or catching.

Here’s a look at the causes of osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans.

Osteochondrosis causes

Osteochondrosis develops from temporary disruptions in the blood supply for bone and cartilage for a particular bone.

The underlying cause of osteochondrosis isn’t known. Experts have suggested that it might be related to:

  • hormonal imbalances
  • genetic causes
  • repetitive trauma
  • biomechanical factors
  • atypical blood vessel structures

Osteochondritis dissecans causes

Osteochondritis dissecans occurs when a small segment of bone and cartilage separates from the end of your bone due to a lack of blood supply.

It’s not known what causes the loss of blood supply, but it might be related to repetitive trauma or stress to the bone in genetically prone people.

Here’s a look at the risk factors for osteochondrosis and osteochondritis.

Osteochondrosis risk factors

Risk factors for Osgood-Schlatter disease include:

  • male sex
  • ages 12 to 15 years for males
  • ages 8 to 13 years for females
  • sudden skeletal growth
  • jumping, sprinting, or other repetitive activities

Risk factors for Legg-Calve-Perthés disease include:

  • short stature
  • birth weight under 5.5 pounds for males
  • secondhand smoke exposure
  • some blood clotting disorders
  • HIV

Osteochondritis dissecans risk factors

Osteochondritis dissecans is most common in young athletes between the ages of 10 and 20 years, but it can occur from childhood to adulthood. It affects males about twice as often as females.

These are some of the potential complications for osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans.

Osteochondrosis complications

Osteochondrosis can sometimes lead to chronic joint pain or arthritis.

Legg-Calve-Pethés disease can cause deformity of the head of your femur, which can put you at risk of:

Osgood-Schlatter disease rarely causes long-term complications. But some children may have ongoing pain that lasts into adulthood or develop a bony bump under their shin.

Osteochondritis dissecans complications

Complications of osteochondritis dissecans can include:

  • arthritis
  • chronic pain
  • pain when moving a limb
  • blood clots due to reduced movement

It’s important to seek medical attention if you or your child develops joint or bone pain that’s:

  • getting progressively worse
  • severe
  • affecting your daily activities
  • causing a new limp that persists (in children)

Diagnostic tests for osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans include:

These are the treatment options for osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans.

Osteochondrosis treatment

Osteochondrosis often heals eventually by itself. Supportive treatments can include:

You may need surgery if conservative treatment isn’t effective.

Osteochondritis dissecans treatment

Treatment options for osteochondritis dissecans include:

  • avoiding vigorous activity
  • using crutches or splints
  • casting the affected limb
  • getting surgery, if your symptoms don’t improve after 2 to 4 months

Surgical options might include:

  • drilling into the injured area to create a pathway for new blood vessels
  • using pins and screws to keep the affected area in place
  • replacing the damaged area with a bone and cartilage graft

Here’s a look at the outlook for osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans.

Osteochondrosis recovery

Osgood-Schlatter disease often goes away by itself, but that may take months. About 10% of people have symptoms into adulthood.

About half of people with Legg-Calve-Perthés disease have no long-term complications. The other half may develop disability in their 40s or 50s and require a hip replacement in their 60s or 70s.

Osteochondritis dissecans recovery

If you need surgery for osteochondritis dissecans, you may need crutches for about 6 weeks, followed by 2 to 4 months of physical therapy.

Most people who get surgery eventually develop early onset osteoarthritis.

It isn’t clear how to prevent osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans. But following a proper training program and avoiding overtraining may help young athletes prevent joint problems.

It’s often possible to manage both osteochondrosis and osteochondritis dissecans conservatively. You may need surgery if conservative treatment options aren’t effective for you.