Knee Cartilage Injuries
There are two types of cartilage within the knee. Joint surface cartilage, also known as chondral cartilage, and the shock-absorbing cartilage, medically known as the meniscus. Either can be damaged within the knee, either as the cause of a sporting injury or as a consequence of age related degenerative change. Once damaged, they often don’t heal because they have a relatively poor blood supply.
Symptoms of Knee Cartilage Injuries
Knee cartilage injuries present as catching or locking from the knee and this is sometimes painful. As well as this swelling of the knee can be seen and sometimes giving way although this is more likely to be caused by a ligament tear or kneecap instability. The torn piece of cartilage gets in the way inside the knee, causing the pain and clicking. The irritation from this is what causes the swelling as the body tries to cushion the irritation.
Treatment of Knee Cartilage Injuries
In a small proportion of cases, the pain, catching and swelling settle down with rest. Often they return once more vigorous activity is resumed.
If the symptoms don’t settle then a knee arthroscopy should be considered. This is a keyhole operation usually done under a general anaesthetic. Sometimes the cartilage tear can be repaired but in the great majority of cases, the torn cartilage is removed so that it no longer gets in the way. Most patients are able to go home the same day and can usually manage without crutches. Many patients can return to work within a week if in a desk job or within two weeks if in a manual job or on their feet a lot. Depending on what is done within the knee, light training can be started at around 2 weeks following surgery and full sports at around 6-12 weeks. If the injury is to the joint surface cartilage then whilst symptoms are often improved, they are not always completely cured by surgery.