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Osteochondritis (osteochondrosis) dissecans: A review and new MRI classification

  • Musculoskeletal radiology, Review article
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Osteochondritis (osteochondrosis) dissecans (OCD) is a common condition in children, adolescents, and young adults. Describing OCD together with osteochondral fractures and epiphyseal ossification disturbances and considering these three conditions as one entity has caused much confusion. Age distribution and localization combined with the radiologic and surgical presentation distinguishes these conditions. Osteochondritis dissecans represents an osseous lesion with secondary involvement of the overlying cartilage. Beginning as avascular osteonecrosis, OCD forms a transitional zone that harbors the potential of restoration with complete healing or progression to an osseous defect. Mechanical and traumatic factors are etiologically dominant in OCD, but a predisposition seems to be a contributing factor in some patients. Osteochondritis dissecans is generally diagnosed by conventional radiology. Its therapy is determined by the stage of the lesion and MRI will become the method of choice for staging. Intact cartilage, contrast enhancement of the lesion, and absent “cystic” defects are findings of MRI stage I and justify conservative therapy, obviating arthroscopy. Cartilage defect with or without incomplete separation of the fragment, fluid around an undetached fragment, and a dislodged fragment are MRI findings observed in stage II and require arthroscopy with possible intervention. Thus, MRI can noninvasively separate non-surgical from possibly surgical lesions and should replace diagnostic arthroscopy.

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Received 27 January 1997; Revision received 1 April 1997; Accepted 3 April 1997

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Bohndorf, K. Osteochondritis (osteochondrosis) dissecans: A review and new MRI classification. Eur Radiol 8, 103–112 (1998).

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