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Emergency Case

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What is Knee Cartilage?

Cartilage is found throughout the human body and lines the joints’ surfaces. The connective tissue is less rigid than bone but is stiff enough to help absorb stress when placed on the joint. Cartilage provides a smooth protective layer within the knee joint, covering the tibia (shinbone), femur (thighbone) and the undersurface of the patella (kneecap). When a patient experiences a knee cartilage injury from trauma, overuse, a sports injury or natural degeneration from aging, they often feel chronic knee joint pain and swelling. Patients living in the Jacksonville, Orange Park, Fleming Island, and Middleburg Florida area suffering from a cartilage injury in the knee can depend on Dr. Aaron Bates, knee specialist, to treat the injury and to return them to their daily activities and active lifestyles.

A knee cartilage injury can range from mild softening of the connective tissue to torn cartilage displaying underlying bone. Patients may also experience “loose bodies” floating within the knee joint. The term loose bodies refers to cartilage that has become separated from the bone during a traumatic event or age related degeneration and now floats unattached within the joint. Loose bodies have the potential to cause troublesome mechanical issues, such as catching and locking.  In addition, cartilage damage can cause continued swelling, pain and limitation of motion and prevents the knee from full function.

What are the Symptoms of a Knee Cartilage Injury?

The hallmark symptoms of a cartilage injury are constant, dull knee joint pain and swelling. Patients with loose bodies may also experience mechanical symptoms, including joint locking and catching.

How to Know if You have Damage to your Knee Cartilage

Dr. Bates will perform a thorough medical review and physical examination of the affected knee to reach a concrete diagnosis of a knee cartilage injury. Symptoms, such as knee joint pain, associated with a cartilage injury often mimic or overlap other joint injuries. Because of this, Dr. Bates typically performs a series of x-rays and an MRI scan to rule out other knee injuries and to confirm the diagnosis.

What are Treatment Options for a Knee Cartilage Injury?

It is critical patients undergo treatment for a knee cartilage injury since cartilage lacks its own blood supply and cannot heal naturally on its own. If left untreated, the injury may cause a patient to experience additional degeneration, leading to painful arthritis or other degenerative condition.

Does Knee Cartilage Damage Require Surgery?

Many cases of a knee cartilage injury are treated in a non-surgical manner with rest, ice, compression and elevation, otherwise known as the RICE method. Dr. Bates may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and a physical therapy program to decrease pain and inflammation and to strengthen the affected joint.

What are Surgical Treatment Options for Knee Cartilage?

A surgical procedure to treat chronic knee joint pain associated with a cartilage injury may be prescribed by Dr. Bates if non-surgical measures fail or if the injury is too severe. Dr. Bates utilizes a variety of arthroscopic techniques, including:

  • Debridement (shaving) – Debridement is used to smooth the shredded or frayed cartilage, leading to decreased friction and irritation, reducing the symptoms of swelling and knee joint pain.
  • Partial Menisectomy – A partial menisectomy is used when a portion of the torn meniscus needs to be repaired or removed to eliminate mechanical issues such as catching and locking.
  • Microfracture (marrow stimulation) – Microfracture is used to treat damaged areas of articular cartilage in the knee by creating small holes in the bone to allow for blood flow, stimulating healing and neocartilage formation.
  • Osteochondral Autograft Transfer – Healthy bone and cartilage can be harvested from the patients own body, and transferred to injured area.
  • Allograft Cartilage Transplantation – Dr. Bates specializes in cartilage transplantation that is augmented with the patients own Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) for optimal healing.
  • Allograft transfer – Allograft transfer is used to replace the damaged areas with a cartilage-bone unit that is procured from a donor. This is usually reserved for large areas of cartilage damage and can be ideal in situations where the underlying bone is damaged.

If you are experiencing chronic knee joint pain and swelling associated with a knee cartilage injury, please office Dr. Aaron Bates, knee specialist serving Jacksonville, Orange Park, Fleming Island, and Middleburg Florida communities.