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Knee Cartilage Tears (Meniscal Tears): Surgery, Treatment & Recovery

What is a Cartilage Injury in the Knee?

Cartilage covers the ends of the thighbone, shinbone, and kneecap, and acts as a cushion to make it easier for the bones to move painlessly. Cartilage is tough and firm, but even so, it does get damaged or worn down, causing a significant amount of pain and hampering your ability to move and go about your daily activities.

A/Professor Andrew Dutton Cartilage Injury Illustration

There are many causes of a Cartilage Injury in the knee, which include dislocation stemming from a fall or some sudden, forceful impact. The knee might also become infected or inflamed, which can happen during arthritis, or a person might also suffer a Meniscus Tear or Sports Injuries of the Knee.


Don’t wait for a knee cartilage injury to define or limit your knee function. A/Professor Andrew Quoc Dutton is a Harvard fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon who specialises on sports injuries, cartilage regeneration, arthroscopic repair and knee replacements to help restore the functional capacity of the knees. Visit our clinic at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore today.


In some cases, the cartilage may have torn off, and the detached piece may have gotten stuck somewhere inside the bones of the knee to cause a lot of pain. If a Cartilage Injury is not attended to, the overall condition of the knee may worsen and develop Osteoarthritis or the like.

Frequently Asked Questions on Cartilage Injury

A person who experiences pain, stiffness or swelling in the knee, or feels like the knee is locking up, and is therefore having a hard time standing up or walking, might have suffered a cartilage injury. The symptoms of a cartilage injury are sometimes similar to a sprain or other injuries. To find out for sure, the surgeon will have to assess your symptoms and examine your knee.

Athletes or people suffering from Knee Osteoarthritis might also sustain a cartilage injury, as might people who do strenuous physical labour. A person who was born with an abnormal knee structure, or someone with a hormonal disorder that affects the development of the joints and bones (like Osteochondritis Dessicans) might also benefit from cartilage injury treatments.

Once the surgeon has ascertained that a cartilage injury is what’s causing your Knee Pain, he will be able to recommend the right treatment option for you depending on how old and how active you are. Studies have shown that cartilage injury treatments can be viable for those who are 40 years old and above.

Non-surgical treatments may be advisable if the injury is not so severe, and these include a programme of rest and anti-inflammatory medications such as paracetamol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. Physical therapy exercises might also help if you have a hard time with knee movement, by helping to reduce pain and strengthening the muscles around the knee.

A minimal or slight cartilage injury may heal on its own in just a few weeks. PRICE therapy, or Protecting, Resting, Icing, Compressing and Elevating the knee may be able to help. Use a knee brace or bandage and keep your knee raised on a pillow as much as possible, applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 15 to 20-minute periods every two to three hours.

After a few days, you may use crutches and slowly start to get back to your usual tasks. You may also be asked to lose weight and to modify your usual activities somewhat to place less stress on your knee.

If surgery becomes an option, there are also a number of procedures that may be carried out to treat the injury which are usually done under anaesthesia.

Knee Arthroscopy can be used to refine scar tissue that may form over the injury, so that it will not hinder the knee’s movement and cause further pain. It may also be used for lavage and debridement, or cleaning and trimming any torn, loose tissue.

Cartilage Regeneration (Microfracture, Cartilage Transplantations and Stem Cell Trials) are other options wherein the injured cartilage is either replaced by a healthy graft or cultured cartilage cells, or bone marrow is released to encourage the formation of replacement cartilage.

However, if the cartilage was very badly damaged and arthroscopy, regeneration or transplants are unable to help, the surgeon might consider Knee Replacement, which involves replacing the injured parts with artificial parts or prostheses.

Singapore Knee

Though complications that may arise from surgical cartilage injury treatments are generally rare, it’s still important to know the risks involved, and that the risk increases in older patients. There’s the general surgical risk of bleeding and infection, as well as blood clots, heart attack and stroke, although the latter is rare among patients who are fit and relatively younger.

Infection and other complications might also be more common among those who smoke, and those who are obese, have a heart problem or some other medical condition might also have a higher risk.

The surgeon may ask for an MRI to be taken of your knee as part of the examination, as well as an X-ray. Even though cartilage can’t be seen on an X-ray, it will help the surgeon see whether any bones were injured as well as the cartilage.

Go through the treatment plan with the surgeon and ask about anything you don’t understand or might have concerns about. Let the surgeon know about any medical conditions that you’ve had for a long time.

A person who has undergone surgery for treating a cartilage injury will have to take at least a few weeks for recovery, although it may be several months before you can get back to sports and other strenuous activities.

It’s important for you to stick to the rehabilitation programme given to you by the surgeon, which may include using crutches for six to eight weeks which will give the cartilage in your knee a chance to heal. To regain your range of motion, you may be given physical therapy exercises right after your procedure, as well as use a continuous passive motion device.

Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. Don’t just brush it off and risk the chance of compromising your movement and interupting your daily activities. Get it checked today for the right intervention the soonest possible time. Book your appointment with Dr. Dutton, here.

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