Osteochondritis dissecans of the knee in children. A comparison of MRI and arthroscopic findings.

O’Connor MA, Palaniappan M, Khan N, Bruce CE. J Bone Joint Surg Br 2002 Mar;84(2):258-62

The treatment of osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) in children and adolescents is determined by the stability of the lesion and the state of the overlying cartilage. MRI has been advocated as an accurate way of assessing and staging such lesions. Our aim was to determine if MRI scans accurately predicted the subsequent arthroscopic findings in adolescents with OCD of the knee. Some authors have suggested that a high signal line behind a fragment on the T2-weighted image indicates the presence of synovial fluid and is a sign of an unstable lesion. More recent reports have suggested that this high signal line is due to the presence of vascular granulation tissue and may represent a healing reaction. We were able to improve the accuracy of MRI for staging the OCD lesion from 45% to 85% by interpreting the high signal T2 line as a predictor of instability only when it was accompanied by a breach in the cartilage on the T1-weighted image. We conclude that MRI can be used to stage OCD lesions accurately and that a high signal line behind the OCD fragment does not always indicate instability. We recommend the use of an MRI classification system which correlates with the arthroscopic findings.