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Knee Cartilage Injuries

Cartilage injures in the knee are common and can occur alone or in combination with damage to bone, ligaments, or the meniscus.

There are three bones that form the knee joint – the thigh bone (femur), the shin bone (tibia), and the kneecap (patella). Articular cartilage covers the ends of the bones in the joint to reduce friction allowing the bones to slide and rotate smoothly; and to help distribute loads across the joint. Articular cartilage is slippery, tough, and flexible tissue that is easily injured and, because it has only a limited blood supply, is challenging to treat.

Additionally, there are two C-shaped ring liked structures called the meniscus in each knee, The two types are called the inner (medial) and outer (lateral) meniscus. The menisci are pads of thick rubbery cartilage that sit within the knee joint to add an additional layer of protection and shock absorption and help to stabilize the knee.

The menisci are vital knee structures. Injury to the menisci is frequently associated with cartilage injury to the knee. Damage to knee cartilage is a common injury.

A chondral defect is a localized area of damage to the articular cartilage that covers the ends of the bones in the knee joint. The development of chondral defects can increase the risk and rate of progression to permanent disability.

  • Trauma to the knee can occur from a bad fall, auto accident, contact sports like skiing and football, and even non-contact sports that require pivoting or twisting. Any of these events can damage the articular cartilage and the menisci. Trauma to the knee increases the risk of post-traumatic osteoarthritis by 57%. Pain and disability may diminish the quality of life.
  • Arthritis in the knee, caused by aging and wear and tear, breaks down the articular cartilage which frays and the space between the bones narrows. This allows the bones to rub together resulting in inflammation, pain, bone spurs and disability. Even small cartilage defects can progress to end-stage knee arthritis over time. 

  • pain and stiffness
  • swelling (inflammation)
  • catching or grinding sensation
  • joint locking or giving way
  • mobility limitations

Our team at LALL Orthopedics + will discuss your knee problems with you, ask about any injuries, review your medical history, and explore your symptoms. X-rays will be ordered to reveal bone injuries and position, and an MRI may be ordered to reveal damage to the cartilage and other soft tissues in the knee. An MRI will also detect the depth and size of a cartilage defect which is important information when considering possible treatments.

Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure to diagnose knee joint problems. This may be recommended to see inside the knee joint, confirm the diagnosis, and in some cases treat the cause of knee pain.

  • Partial-thickness injuries occur when a piece of cartilage breaks off and floats in the joint causing catching and locking of the knee.
  • Full-thickness cartilage defects are often found in the presence of injury to the knee ligaments such as an ACL tear or meniscus damage.
  • Osteochondral (bone + cartilage) defects refer to a local area of damage to the articular cartilage that also involves damage to the underlying bone.  

Our team at LALL Orthopedics + will identify the type and extent of the cartilage defects to formulate a treatment plan based on the size of the defect, the patient’s age, and the existence of associated damage in the knee joint.

Dr. Ajay C. Lall is a former dual sport NCAA collegiate athlete (football and track & field), American board certified, triple fellowship-trained expert orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hip arthroscopy, robotic hip replacement and cutting-edge regenerative medicine such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and Stem-Cell therapy. He treats non-athletes and athletes at all levels of play from collegiate to professional to the Olympic level. Dr. Lall is a world-renowned orthopedic surgeon who cares for all patients like family. Contact LALL Orthopedics + to schedule a consultation, receive the correct diagnosis, and undergo state-of-the-art treatment options.

At a Glance

Ajay C. Lall, MD, MS, FAAOS

  • Board Certified – Orthopedic Surgery
  • Triple Fellowship Trained
  • Performs over 750 Surgeries Per Year
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