Chondral Defects - Diagnosis

How is articular cartilage damage diagnosed?

It can be difficult to diagnose an articular cartilage injury. Physical examination may show a swollen knee, but frequently the exam is normal.

Imaging may help the doctor make a diagnosis in some, but not all, cases. X-rays may be normal in most cases because only bone damage is visible on X-ray. One indication of advanced cartilage loss is a decrease in space between two bone surfaces. A loose bone fragment may be detected in a condition called osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), in which a portion of bone detaches with the articular cartilage.

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) may reveal softened cartilage in many cases. This softening can be difficult to detect, however, and the diagnosis may require the most sensitive and highest quality MRI images, which may show changes in the underlying bone. Cartilage thinning or loss is also usually visible on MRI.

Articular cartilage damage is most reliably diagnosed with an arthroscopic examination of the joint. In this procedure, a tiny fiberoptic scope is inserted into the joint. The doctor uses this scope to visually assess the damage.


About Doctor Barrow...

Dr Michael Stuart Barrow is an Orthopaedic Surgeon who specialises in knee surgery. He practices from Sunninghill Hospital and the Waterfall Sports Centre.
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Contact Details

Dr. Michael Barrow

Tel: 011 806 1772/0 and 011 806 1657
Fax: 011 806 1796
Cell: 082 925 4940

After Hours:
Sunninghill Casualty: 011 806 1652

Sunninghill Hospital
Suite 5, East Wing
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