Cartilage and Osteochondral Injuries

What are cartilage and osteochondral injuries?

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The joint surfaces of the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone) are covered by a smooth layer of cartilage that forms the gliding surface of the knee. This cartilage can be damaged in athletic injuries, resulting in a disruption in this smooth gliding surface. An osteochondral injury or defect occurs when a piece of the cartilage, along with a part of the bone underneath, is chipped off, leaving a gap. When the entire cartilage surface of the knee begins to breakdown, this is osteoarthritis.

What symptoms do cartilage and osteochondral injuries cause?

Cartilage and osteochondral injuries can cause deep pain, stiffness, and swelling. In some cases the loose body (piece that is broken off) may end up loose in the knee joint, causing locking of the knee (when the knee actually gets stuck with various knee movements or positions).

How are cartilage and osteochondral injuries diagnosed?

Diagnosis begins with a discussion with your doctor and a thorough examination. However, cartilage injuries also generally require sophisticated imaging for a full evaluation. UC San Diego specializes in advanced imaging techniques that provide the most accurate non-invasive evaluation of the joint surface.

How are cartilage and osteochondral injuries treated?

Treatment of cartilage injuries is complex and must be individualized to the patient. UC San Diego has been a national leader in cartilage research and treatment for decades. We have a multidisciplinary team which designs individualized treatment plans from specific therapy programs to medications, injections, and cartilage repair surgeries. UC San Diego Health System is also a national leader in osteochondral allograft transplants, in which cartilage and bone are transplanted to fill a significant joint defect. Speak to one of our cartilage specialists to determine the best treatment for your knee.