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What is chondromalacia?

The knee joint is composed of three bones:

In a healthy knee, flexible connective tissue called cartilage coats the end of these bones and a thick liquid lubricates it. This allows for smooth, normal movement.

Chondromalacia is a softening and subsequent roughening of the joint’s surfaces. As a result, the bones are not able to move freely and without pain.

What causes chondromalacia?

Chondromalacia is usually associated with injury, overuse of the knee, and poorly aligned muscles and bones around the knee joint. Common causes include:

What are the symptoms of chondromalacia?

Symptoms of chondromalacia can vary from person to person and may be mild, moderate, or severe. Common symptoms include:

How is chondromalacia diagnosed?

Your physician will review your medical history to determine if there’s been a fracture, sprain, infection, or arthritis in your knee that might be a contributing factor. A physical exam will check:

Diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays or an MRI, may also confirm a diagnosis of chondromalacia.

How is chondromalacia treated nonsurgically?

The goal of treatment is to reduce the pressure on your kneecap and joint.

What are the surgical treatment options for chondromalacia?

If nonsurgical treatments are not successful, or if you have severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend knee arthroscopy. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive operation in which the surgeon examines the joint with an arthroscope, a pencil-thin device equipped with a camera lens and light, while making repairs through a small incision. If necessary, your doctor also can correct the alignment of your kneecap or other parts of your knee to help to reduce wear and tear on your knee cartilage.