Elbow Osteochondritis Dissecans Repair Surgeon

Head Sports Medicine Physician Nikhil Verma, MD

Are you a young athlete who participates in throwing sports, such as baseball? The forceful and repeated actions of this sport and others can strain the immature surface of the outer part of the elbow joint. These athletes may be prone to a troubling elbow condition called osteochondritis dissecans of
the elbow or (OCD.) Elbow OCD specialist, Dr. Nikhil Verma provides diagnosis and both surgical and nonsurgical treatment options for patients in Westchester, Oakbrook, Hinsdale and surrounding Chicago communities who have developed osteochondritis dissecans of the elbow. Contact Dr. Verma’s team today!

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(312) 432-2387

Elbow Osteochondritis Dissecans Repair Overview

What is osteochondritis dissecans of the elbow?

Osteochondritis Dissecans of the elbow, also known as OCD occurs when there is a loss of adequate blood supply to the cartilage and underlying bone within the elbow joint. A small section of bone dies without the required blood supply, crack and breaks off with the supportive cartilage. Often seen in young athletes between the ages of 12-20, and especially in young baseball pitchers, osteochondritis dissecans of the elbow used to be called “Little Leaguer’s Elbow.” Now, however, OCD has been found in a broader spectrum of athletes including gymnasts and those who play racket sports. Dr. Nikhil Verma, orthopedic elbow specialist serving Westchester, Oakbrook, Hinsdale and surrounding Chicago communities has extensive experience in treating patients with osteochondritis dissecans of the elbow.

What causes OCD of the elbow?

OCD is caused by the lack of blood in the subchondral bone. This loss of blood flow causes the subchondral bone to die in a process called avascular necrosis. The bone is then reabsorbed by the body, leaving the behind articular cartilage damage. OCD of the elbow often occurs due to a genetic anomaly. Other causes may include:

  • Overuse of the elbow joint
  • Repetitive throwing motions, creating a stress injury
  • History of significant trauma

What are the symptoms of elbow osteochondritis dissecans?

  • Pain and tenderness when moving the elbow
  • Locking or difficulty moving the elbow
  • Stiffness, popping or clicking
  • Instability in the joint

How is elbow OCD diagnosed?

Dr. Verma will conduct a thorough medical history as well as physical examination of the patient’s elbow. Popping or clicking (known as crepitus) in the elbow is checked, as well as range of motion and level of pain. X-rays of the elbow are used to confirm the diagnosis and often an MRI scan is required to determine the amount of damage to surrounding soft tissues, cartilage and bone damage. Tears in the cartilage, called lesions, are classified as follows:

  • Grade 1: Considered stable – Cartilage in intact, but there is an abnormality and a beginning thickening.
  • Grade 2: Considered stable – Cartilage has been damaged and there is a crack or tear in the bone (a lesion).
  • Grade 3: Considered unstable – Cartilage has been damaged and there are bone fragments with synovial fluid present.
  • Grade 4: Considered unstable – Loose bodies with in the joint (often bone fragments).

How is OCD of the elbow treated?


For young athletes who are diagnosed with OCD of the elbow, discontinuation of the sporting activity that caused the elbow OCD needs to occur. In severe cases, patients may wear a sling or splint to immobilize the joint and facilitate healing. Dr. Verma may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicine to help reduce pain and swelling within the joint. Physical therapy may be necessary after a period of rest to help with flexibility and range of motion. Dr. Verma’s team will then work with athletes to help improve their form so the strain on the elbow during sports can be reduced.


The type and extent of surgical treatment depends on the grade of the lesion. Dr. Verma typically performs this type of surgery either openly (where he opens the elbow to see the joint clearly) or arthroscopically with small incisions and using small surgical instruments. He may perform one or more of the following procedures:

  • Debridement
  • Grafting
  • External Fixation

How long is the recovery after treatment for OCD of the elbow?

Recovery time varies and is dependent upon several factors. Age, health and the extent of injury all play a part in the recovery timeline. In general, treatment can often take 1-4 months, followed by physical therapy. Complete recovery can take up to a full year, depending on the severity of the osteochondritis dissecans.

For more information on osteochondritis dissecans of the elbow, or if your teen is suffering from elbow pain, please contact the office of Nikhil Verma, MD, orthopedic specialist, serving Westchester, Oakbrook, Hinsdale and the surrounding Chicago, IL communities.

Are you a candidate for Elbow Osteochondritis Dissecans Repair?

There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Verma:

You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review with Dr. Verma ($250).

You can schedule an office consultation with Dr.

Request Case Review or Office Consultation

Elbow Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) repair FAQ

What is Osteochondritis dissecans?

Osteochondritis dissecans is a joint disorder that causes cracks in the articular cartilage and the underlying subchondral bone, causing it to break away. OCD causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the affected joint.

What causes elbow OCD lesions?

OCD is caused by the lack of blood in the subchondral bone. This loss of blood flow causes the subchondral bone to die in a process called avascular necrosis. The bone is then reabsorbed by the body, leaving the behind articular cartilage damage.

How does elbow OCD occur?

Dr. Verma and other top orthopedic specialists believe OCD occurs from repeated stress to the bone. Young athletes who participate in competitive sports are most prone to the condition. Constant stress on the developing bone can reduce the blood flow to the bone, causing osteochondritis dissecans to occur.

How can elbow osteochondritis dissecans be treated?

Dr. Verma has both surgical and non-surgical treatments available for OCD. Non-surgical treatments most often involve rest and discontinuing the activity that caused the condition until it has had proper time to heal. Surgical options may include debridement, drilling, internal fixation or an osteochondral allograft. It is important to talk with Dr. Verma to determine which treatment is best for you.

Does elbow osteochondritis dissecans go away?

OCD can “go away” after a period of rest and healing. It is important to follow the correct rehabilitation guidelines from Dr. Verma and his team. Strengthening exercises and body mechanics changes may be beneficial in preventing further osteochondritis dissecans.

What are the symptoms of elbow osteochondritis dissecans elbow?

Patients experiencing OCD of the elbow often report symptoms of pain, cracking or popping when the joint is straightened or bent, decreased range of motion, elbow tenderness and swelling, and the sensation of catching in the joint.

Is osteochondritis dissecans curable?

There is not a cure for osteochondritis dissecans, but there are many treatment options for the condition. Dr. Verma is able to successfully treat OCD for patients in Chicago, returning them to the activities they enjoy.

Is osteochondritis dissecans common?

OCD in the knee or elbow is relatively uncommon. Children or youth most commonly have symptoms related to OCD and it typically affects children who participate in competitive sports.