Osteochondritis Dissecans (Bone chips)

Osteochondritis dissecans is a condition in which bone or cartilage fragments become loose in the elbow joint. Cartilage lines the joints and forms a shock absorbing layer between bone. Bone chips often occur after direct trauma to the elbow and in some cases occur in throwing athletes and gymnasts.

Symptoms of Osteochondritis dissecans 

When trauma occurs to the joint fragments of bone or cartilage become loose. In most cases there is pain in the elbow that can increase with movement. You may be able to feel the loose chip in the elbow joint. The elbow may also may clicking noises and can also lock if the fragment lodges in the joint space. In most cases there is also swelling and straightening of the elbow is usually limited.

Diagnosis and treatment

In most cases there is a history of direct trauma to the elbow joint. Your physiotherapist will examine the elbow. In some cases and x-ray may be done to see the bony damage. Management of this condition initially involves rest.

Physiotherapy would initially involve the use of ice, electrotherapeutic modalities and gentle massage to reduce pain and inflammation. Once the pain has settled techniques and exercises to gain full range of motion and strength will be commenced by your physiotherapist. Your physiotherapist will also help in your gradual return to sport that should commence once you are pain free and there is no more swelling. In some cases if the bone chips continue to cause pain and limit range of motion surgery may be required to remove them. This would most likely be followed by physiotherapy.