How Is Knee Cartilage Damage Diagnosed?

Cartilage is the strong and flexible tissue blanketing the joints preventing friction between the bones, and serves as a cushion during intense activities like jumping or running. Knee cartilage can wear down and sustain damage over time, producing discomfort while walking or during sports.

Patients will undergo a clinical examination to assess the extent of the damage. The physician inspects the affected area for swelling and will ask the patient about the pain he experiences and related symptoms.

If patients experience pain on the knee's interior or exterior, it's usually indicative of the injury occurring in the bottom of the femur, with the discomfort intensifying during strenuous activities that involve weight bearing on the joint. When pain occurs after sitting for a prolonged period or during activities like kneeling or climbing stairs, the cartilage damage is usually behind the knee cap

Physicians will typically order X-ray imaging to detect severely deteriorated cartilage or rule out other potential causes leading to painful symptoms. While x-rays can detect acute tissue damage, they do not help pinpoint localized injuries or cartilage fraying and may require MRI scanning for a more precise diagnosis. 

If the symptoms and diagnostic results don't indicate advanced damage, treatment will be limited to a conservative approach. Conversely, if the damage is apparent or symptoms don't respond to conservative treatment, physicians may recommend surgical intervention to repair the injured cartilage. 

Who Qualifies for Surgery?

Knee cartilage repair surgery is recommended for acute cases when mobility is affected; however, not everybody is eligible for this type of intervention. Due to the knee cartilage's anatomy and patient particularities, surgery is primarily recommended for individuals who:

  • Are younger than 40
  • Experience pain while at rest
  • Have experienced pain for weeks or months, not years
  • Encounter no issues with the knee's stability or alignment 
  • Have isolated cartilage injuries         
  • Have an active lifestyle

The procedure is elective, and not everyone eligible for surgery will opt for it.