Articular Cartilage Injury
At the Andrews Institute, our multidisciplinary team of experts works together to recommend the best approach when your child tears the cartilage between a joint. Each treatment plan is tailored to your child’s unique needs and provides comprehensive care.
Our physicians are leaders in both non-invasive therapies and minimally invasive treatments for articular cartilage injuries, which tend to occur in the knee, ankle and elbow. They can also provide top care for related injuries, such as:
- ACL injury
- Meniscus tears
If damaged cartilage is not treated, it can worsen and eventually require surgery. We help avoid that outcome with medications, changes in activities and in-house physical therapy. But we can also provide minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery if needed.
Articular Cartilage Injury Symptoms
Articular cartilage helps our joints move and glide freely. Tears, or lesions, in that cartilage can interfere with normal movement and cause problems.
Common causes of articular cartilage injuries include:
- Sudden, traumatic injury from a fall or physical contact
- Wear and tear from repetitive movements in sports
Symptoms of an articular cartilage injury can include:
- Limited range of motion
Feeling as if the joint, especially if it’s the knee, is giving out, “locking” or “catching”
Diagnosing Articular Cartilage Injury
Our physicians start with a physical examination when diagnosing an articular cartilage injury. They may also order diagnostic tests to look at the bones, ligaments, tendons and cartilage in the injured joint.
Diagnostic testing may include:
- X-ray: Uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to take detailed images of the bones of the injured joint, checking for any problems
- CT (computed tomography) scan: Uses X-rays to make detailed images of the injured area
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan: Uses magnetic fields and radiowaves to take detailed pictures of the joint, checking for tears in the ligaments, tendons or cartilage
- Arthroscopy: Uses an arthroscope (a thin, lighted tube with a small camera attached), which is inserted through tiny incisions to visualize, diagnose and treat the problem
Treating Articular Cartilage Injury
Our physicians specialize in both non-surgical treatments for articular cartilage injuries and in minimally invasive surgery. If a repair is needed, our surgeons use a minimally invasive approach whenever possible.
Non-surgical treatments include:
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Activity modification
- Physical therapy
When symptoms worsen, your child may need surgery. We consider the injury’s severity and your child’s age and activity level when determining the best option:
- Arthroscopic surgery: During this minimally invasive procedure, your child’s physician inserts an arthroscope — a thin, lighted tube with a small camera attached — through tiny incisions near the joint to visualize and treat the damage. Learn more about arthroscopy.
In rare cases, children with serious tears and existing conditions such as osteochondritis dissecans may require more extensive surgery. Your physician will discuss the best surgical options with you and your child.
Articular Cartilage Injury Resources
Learn more about articular cartilage injuries in children:
American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: Articular Cartilage Restoration
Articular Cartilage Injury FAQs
Where do articular cartilage injuries usually occur?
The knee is the most common joint where articular cartilage injury occurs. Ankle, shoulders and elbows are less common, but also possible.