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Diagnosis & Expected Duration

Monday, Aug. 27, 2007; 7:44 PM

Copyright Harvard Health Publications 2007


Table of Contents

Your doctor will want to know whether you have ever:

  • Fractured your kneecap or any other bone in the knee joint

  • Sprained your knee or injured your knee's meniscus (the disk-shaped, shock-absorbing cartilage inside the knee)

  • Had knee surgery

  • Had bleeding or an infection inside your knee joint

  • Been diagnosed with arthritis in your knee

Your doctor also will ask about the type of work you do and your recreational and sports activities.

Your doctor will compare your painful knee with your normal one. He or she will check your painful knee for swelling, deformity, tenderness and fluid in the joint. Your doctor will look at the position of your kneecap and the alignment of your knee joint. He or she will bend and straighten your knee gently to check for creaking sounds and grinding sensations.

Your doctor may order knee X-rays. Although standard knee X-rays do not always detect chondromalacia, they can identify other causes of knee pain. If your symptoms are severe or unusual, your doctor also may order a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of your knee.

In some cases, your doctor may want to examine your knee through a type of surgery called arthroscopy. A tube like instrument is inserted into your knee through a small incision to allow the doctor to look at the inside of the joint and correct any problems. Surgery may be the only way to be certain that the problem is chondromalacia.

Expected Duration

Because articular cartilage heals poorly, chondromalacia usually is a permanent problem. However, nonsurgical treatments often can relieve knee pain within a few months. If nonsurgical treatment fails, your doctor can do surgery to remove the area of damaged cartilage. Once this is done, most patients find that their symptoms improve.

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