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Knee microfracture surgery

Contents of this page:


The structure of a joint
The structure of a joint

Alternative Names    Return to top

Cartilage regeneration - knee

Definition    Return to top

Knee microfracture surgery is a common procedure used to repair damaged knee cartilage. Cartilage is the material that helps cushion the area where bones meet in the joints. Often, athletes have this procedure.

Description    Return to top

Three different types of anesthesia may be used for knee arthroscopy surgery:

The surgeon will make a 1/4-inch-long incision (cut) on your knee.

Why the Procedure is Performed    Return to top

Microfracture surgery is done on people who have small amounts of damage in the cartilage of their knee joint and on the underside of their kneecap. This surgery can help people avoid the need for a partial or total knee replacement. It is also used to treat pain in the knee from cartilage injuries.

Risks    Return to top

Risks for any anesthesia are:

Risks for microfracture surgery are:

Before the Procedure    Return to top

Always tell your doctor or nurse what drugs you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription.

During 2 weeks before your surgery:

On the day of your surgery:

After the Procedure    Return to top

Physical therapy may begin in the recovery room right after surgery. A continuous passive motion machine (CPM) gently exercises your leg for 6 to 8 hours a day for several weeks. This machine is usually used for 6 weeks after surgery. Ask your surgeon how long you will use the CPM machine.

Your exercises will increase over time until you regain full range of motion in your knee. These exercises may speed up the new cartilage growth.

You will need to keep your weight off your knee for 6 to 8 weeks. You will need crutches to get around.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Many people improve after this surgery. Many can return to sports or other intense activities in about 4 months. Athletes in very intense sports may not be able return to their former level of competition.

Results are best when this surgery is done on people younger than 40 whose cartilage injury is recent. It is also most successful for small amounts of damage in the knee cartilage.

References    Return to top

Ritchie PK. Surgical management of cartilage defects in athletes. Clin Sports Med. 2005 Jan;24(1):163-74.

Williams RJ 3rd, Harnly HW. Microfracture: indications, technique, and results. Instr Course Lect. 2007;56:419-428.

Kreuz PC, Erggelet C, Steinwachs MR, Krause SJ, Lahm A, Niemeyer P, et al. Is microfracture of chondral defects in the knee associated with different results in patients aged 40 years or younger? Arthroscopy. 2006;22:1180-1186.

Update Date: 2/9/2009

Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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