Articular Cartilage Damage

The articular cartilage is the thin layer of smooth and shiny glistening white tissue that covers the surfaces of the bones inside the knee. Its function is to make the bone surfaces very low friction, to allow smooth repetitive movement of the joint with extremely low wear rates – articular cartilage is highly specialized tissue and has the lowest coefficient of friction of any substance known to man!

Articular cartilage has no blood supply, and the cells within the cartilage get their oxygen and nutrition by diffusion from the synovial fluid that lubricates the joint. This means that articular cartilage is very poor at healing or repairing itself, and damage to the articular cartilage tends to be a cumulative and progressive thing.

Articular cartilage can develop simple wear and tear with time from use. Some people have a genetic predisposition to developing early articular cartilage damage (primary osteoarthritis). Sometimes articular cartilage damage can be traumatic, for example from direct impact injuries to the knee. Occasionally, articular cartilage lesions (damage) can arise spontaneously (e.g. OCD – Osteochondritis Dissecans).

Articular cartilage damage tends to present at pain and swelling in the knee. If there is a rough cartilage surface in the knee or unstable flaps then there can be a crunching or clicking sensation or sound with knee movements. Any unstable or loose bits of articular cartilage can cause symptoms of giving way or locking in the knee.

Any patient with symptoms of articular cartilage damage in a knee should be investigated with an MRI scan, which normally shows things very clearly.

If a patient is getting significant symptoms from articular cartilage damage in a knee and if these symptoms are not getting better with time, then the only proper appropriate treatment is a knee arthroscopy (keyhole surgery).

Click below for further details about the various different treatments available for articular cartilage damage -

CLICK HERE for information about articular cartilage repair

CLICK HERE for information about Chondrotissue articular cartilage grafting