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OCD Lesion of the Elbow: How to Care for Your Child

Rest and appropriate treatment help the OCD lesion heal so your child can eventually return to normal activities.

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With osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) of the elbow, a spot on the outer layer of one of the bones in the elbow joint becomes weakened or degraded. The degraded area (called an OCD lesion) and the surrounding cartilage may loosen from the rest of the elbow joint. OCD of the elbow is also called OCD of the capitellum.

Symptoms of an OCD lesion in the elbow may include pain, swelling, tenderness, and stiffness. The elbow may "lock up" or make popping sounds.

Injury, overuse, and genetic factors all may play a role in the development of OCD lesions. Kids who participate in sports with repetitive throwing, such as baseball and softball, seem to be at greater risk for OCD of the elbow.

Depending on the severity of the OCD lesion, treatment may include rest, a splint or brace, or surgery.

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  • Your child or teen should avoid repetitive throwing, pitching, somersaults, handstands, and carrying heavy objects.

  • Some kids need to wear a brace, sling, or cast. Help your child follow the care instructions from the health care provider.

  • Your child or teen can participate in normal activities that don't cause discomfort and aren't restricted by the health care provider.

  • For pain, give your child ibuprofen or naproxen as directed by your health care provider.

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  • If you haven't already done so, make a follow-up appointment with your child's health care provider or orthopedic surgeon.

  • Follow instructions from the health care provider about taking your child for physical therapy. 

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Your child:

  • Has worsening pain.

  • Develops a lot of swelling around the elbow.

  • Can't move his or her elbow.

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  • The pain in your child's elbow becomes intolerable.

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Without treatment, children with an OCD lesion that is loose or breaks off from the bone are at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis.

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