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Chondromalacia Patella
Softening of the knee cartilage.

Causes of Chondromalacia Patella

Chondromalacia Patella occurs in adolescents and young adults, more frequently in women. The cause is thought to be related to overuse, trauma and/or abnormal forces on the knee. Many affected adolescents have a mildly abnormal alignment of the Patella (knee cap) and femur. Affected people of all ages have knee pain and a grating or grinding sensation when they extend their knee.

Symptoms of Chondromalacia Patella

Knee tenderness

Knee pain in the front of the knee that worsens after sitting for prolonged time

Knee pain that worsens with using stairs or getting out of a chair

A grating sensation in the knee


Diagnosis of Chondromalacia Patella

A physical examination of the knee is not specific but may suggest the diagnosis. The knee may be tender and mildly swollen. The kneecap may not be perfectly lined up with the femur (thigh bone) underneath.

X-rays are usually normal.

Treatment of Chondromalacia Patella

Temporary rest or immobilization of the affected joint and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may be effective in relieving pain. Physical therapy, especially quadriceps strengthening and hamstring stretching, is helpful. Participation in sports or strenuous activity should be limited until the pain has resolved.

Surgery is beneficial if there is a problem with the alignment of the Patella that cannot be corrected with therapy. Depending on the nature of the misalignment, the surgery may be arthroscopic or open.

The condition usually improves with therapy and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. For the few people that need it, surgery is successful about 90% of the time.

Complications of Chondromalacia Patella

Failure of treatment to relieve pain is the primary complication.

When surgery is necessary, surgical complications include infection, failure to relieve pain, and worsening pain.

Prevention of Chondromalacia Patella

Avoid trauma or abnormal stress on the knee.Keep the leg muscles strong and flexible, especially the quadriceps and the hamstrings.

Modified 3-10-04
Information compiled from the National Institutes of Health

 Knee Joint Picture



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