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Bone Chips in the Knee (Osteochondritis Dissecans)


 What are bone chips in the knee?
 What is the cause?
 What are the symptoms?
 How is it diagnosed?
 How is it treated?
 How can I take care of myself?
 How can I help prevent bone chips in the knee?

Bone Chips in the Knee: Illustration
Bone Chips in the Knee: IllustrationClick here to view a full size picture.

What are bone chips in the knee?

Bone chips in the knee are small pieces of bone or cartilage that have come loose and float around in the knee joint. Cartilage is the tissue that lines and cushions the surface of the joints.

Medical terms for this condition are osteochondritis dissecans of the knee or chondral fracture.

What is the cause?

The chips usually result from a knee injury that caused a piece of bone or cartilage to be chipped off the end of the thighbone or the back of the kneecap. It could happen after one serious injury to the knee or after repeated minor injuries. A problem with the blood supply to the bone may be part of the cause.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms, activities, and medical history. Tests may include:

How is it treated?

You will need to rest your knee and avoid activities that cause pain until the symptoms are gone. This may take several weeks.

Sometimes surgery is needed to remove the fragments and repair the surface of the thighbone or kneecap.

How can I take care of myself?

To help relieve swelling and pain:

You may need to change your sport or activity to one that does not make your condition worse. For example, you may need to bicycle or swim instead of run. You may also need to rest if your knee is swollen and painful.

Follow your healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

How can I help prevent bone chips in the knee?

Bone chips are usually caused by injuries to the knee that are not easily prevented.

healthinformatics info

Reference Sources:

DeLee, Jesse C., David Drez, and Mark D. Miller, Orthopaedic Sports Medicine: Principles and Practice, Saunders; 3rd ed. 2009.

Kisner, Carol, and Lynn Colby, Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques, F. A. Davis Company; 6th ed, 2012.

Sarwark, John. Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 4th ed., American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 2010.


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Last Modified: 2012-09-27

Last Reviewed: 2012-01-02

Website Updated: March 2014

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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.


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