Cartilage damage vs. Bone damage

Cartilage and bone are both structures that are of equal importance when it comes to the well-being and proper function of your knee.  The cartilage in the knee joint is comprised of the soft tissue structures both surrounding and within the knee joint that provide stability and cushioning.  This type of cartilage is generally referred to as articular cartilage as it is located where the two bones that comprise your knee joint meet.

When you break a bone, cartilage may or may not be affected.  Likewise, you may have a cartilaginous injury without bone involvement.  An accurate diagnosis of what is causing your symptoms is of vital importance in determining the best treatment for your knee pain.

A traumatic injury often causes a broken bone, but a loss of cartilage in the knee on the other hand is more often than not is from being worn down over time.  An x-ray will reveal a fracture of the bone but cannot diagnose a soft tissue injury such as a loss or tear of cartilage.

Loose cartilage in knee symptoms

Sometimes, a piece of this cartilage can partially or completely tear off and become loose in the knee.  There are some specific symptoms to look for if you suspect this is the case.  Along with possibly being able to feel that something is loose in your knee, other signs of a cartilage tear in the knee may be:

  • Chronic knee pain
  • Swelling in the knee
  • Constant feeling of movement within the knee joint
  • A catching sensation and/or audible clicking or grinding with movement of the knee, or
  • Knee locking when trying to walk or stand up

How to treat loose cartilage in knee

The treatment of a piece of loose cartilage in the knee is dependent on how severe the tear is and how much pain and dysfunction it is causing you.  Conservative treatment with physical therapy and NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) is sometimes sufficient to alleviate the symptoms.

However, in many cases, more invasive procedures will be the answer.  This may involve only a debridement of the knee, which is going inside the knee joint using an arthroscope and ‘cleaning up’ any loose fragments.

MACI® Procedure and other available treatments at Dr. Burke Orthopedics

More severe cases of damaged or loose cartilage may require for that cartilage to be replaced.  Dr. Burke performs a revolutionary new procedure called MACI (Matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation).  MACI is completed by harvesting of a collection of your own (autologous) healthy cartilage taken from a non-weight bearing position. These cells are then placed onto a membrane of collagen which encourages expansion of these cells, and in turn, new healthy cartilage.

Dr. Burke will remove the area of damaged tissue on the affected knee. Next, the MACI implant will be surgically placed at the location of cartilage damage and absorbed back into your own tissue. MACI is a wonderful option that is not offered by all orthopedic surgeons.

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