Knee cartilage lesion

What is a knee cartilage lesion?

In the places where your bones meet to form joints—for example, your knees, hips, and shoulders—the ends of those bones are covered in an elastic white tissue called cartilage. Cartilage allows the bones in your joints to glide so that your joints move smoothly.

A lesion is damage to that cartilage tissue. A lesion in your knee cartilage creates friction in the joint, which causes pain. In some cases, a knee cartilage lesion can lead to arthritis.


Symptoms of a knee cartilage lesion include:

  • Swelling around your knee
  • Pain in your knee joint
  • Stiffness when you try to move your knee
  • A locking or catching sensation when trying to move your knee

Causes and risk factors

Knee cartilage lesions can be caused by:

  • A direct blow to your knee
  • Wear and tear over time

Treatment options

How your doctor treats your knee cartilage lesion depends on how severe the damage is. If the damage is less severe, your doctor may recommend exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint and lifestyle changes to avoid making the injury worse.

If the damage is more severe, your doctor may suggest arthroscopic surgery, which involves inserting a small camera and surgical tools into the knee to repair any rough spots in the cartilage and clean out any loose pieces of cartilage.

Because cartilage doesn’t have a direct blood supply, it can’t heal on its own. Your doctor may want to try one of several types of surgery to try to get new cartilage tissue to grow where the damage is.

Last reviewed: 
June 2018

Interested in using our health content?