What are bone and cartilage fragments in the knee?
Bone and cartilage fragments in the knee, also known as loose bodies, is when very small particles of bone and cartilage separate from the knee joint. These fragments can float freely in the joint space and synovial fluid, but they can also become trapped in the knee, causing pain and inflammation. In more severe cases, these symptoms can become seriously debilitating, making it difficult to perform normal activities.
If your relationships, work and leisure activities are being affected by knee pain, or you’ve been diagnosed with bone and cartilage fragments in the knee, learning more about this condition can be beneficial. At USA Spice Care, we’re committed to patient education as a fundamental part of the treatment process. As you’re reading over the following information, our team will be happy to provide additional information if you have any questions.
Frequent causes of bone and cartilage fragments
Bone and cartilage can start to come loose and fragment in the knee for a number of reasons. One of the primary causes is age-related breakdown combined with everyday wear and tear. Our protective joint cartilage begins to dry out over time, making it more brittle and prone to thinning and degeneration. As this happens, it can subject the joints, such as the knee joints, to increased contact between the bone endings.
The resulting inflammation is usually known as osteoarthritis, and in some cases the friction and wear on the joint lead to bone and cartilage fragments becoming loose in the knee joint. If these pieces become lodged anywhere in the knee, it can further worsen symptoms.
Other potential causes and contributors of bone and cartilage fragments include:
- Sports-related injuries
- Work-related injuries
- Other forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis
Bone and cartilage fragment symptoms
When small pieces of bone and cartilage break off of the knee joint, it may not be painful. It can also be difficult to distinguish the symptoms from another condition or injury that may be present in the knee, such as arthritis or a ligament or tendon sprain or tear. One of the most common telltale symptoms of bone and cartilage fragments in the joint is locking of the knee, due to the way the fragments can inhibit motion.
Other possible symptoms of this condition are:
- Aches and pains in the knee
- Visible swelling and inflammation
- Crepitus, a term for grinding sensations in the joint
- Stiffness and limited range of motion
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or if they suddenly worsen in relation to another condition, it is highly recommended to see a qualified health care professional for a diagnosis.
Diagnosing bone and cartilage fragments
A typical diagnostic examination for knee pain, knee locking or any other symptoms should consist of the following steps:
- Discussion of specific symptoms and how they’re affecting daily activities
- Review of personal and family health history to determine if there is elevated risk for certain conditions or illnesses
- A physical evaluation to test for range of motion and identify painful or tender areas
- Diagnostic testing, such as an MRI, CT scan or X-ray to visibly identify bone or cartilage fragments
If bone and cartilage fragments in the knee are determined to be the underlying cause of symptoms, the next step is to formulate a treatment plan, which usually begins with nonsurgical therapies.
Conservative treatment for bone and cartilage fragments in the knee
Like other knee injuries, the goal of initial treatment is to determine whether symptoms can be successfully managed without the need for surgery. By taking active steps to reduce pain and inflammation, increase function and promote overall health, patients can very often live with this condition and enjoy a good quality of life.
Common treatments include over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, hot and cold compression, rest, activity modification, regular exercise, posture improvement and eating a nutrient-rich diet. Anti-inflammatory steroid injections and physical therapy can also be attempted if symptoms are more severe and don’t respond to less intensive treatments.
When to consider surgery for bone and cartilage fragments?
If symptoms become debilitating and don’t respond to weeks or months of conservative therapies, surgery can become an option. For bone and cartilage fragments in the knee, the most common surgical approach is a knee arthroscopy. This involves a thin tube with a small camera at the end being inserted into the knee through a small incision. The surgeon can then “clean” the knee joint and remove the pieces of bone and cartilage that are causing pain and disrupting knee motion.
Upon recovery, patients will be given thorough instructions on caring for the incision and resuming activities. Physical therapy is also an essential part of recovery, helping patients relearn knee mechanics, strengthen the joint and reduce the risk for re-injury.
The USA Spine Care team is here to help
If you are dealing with chronic knee pain related to bone and cartilage fragments, our highly skilled team can help. We offer a wide range of conservative and surgical treatment options at our state-of-the-art facilities.
Contact us today to learn more. Call toll free 1-866-249-1627.