Loose Bodies of the Knee

Loose bodies are fragments of cartilage or bone that freely float inside the knee joint space.

They can be the result of an injury or from generalized wear and tear over time.

Depending on the severity of the condition, there can be one or many loose bodies inside the joint.

They can be stable (they don’t move about inside the joint) or unstable (they float through the inside of the joint) which can cause pain or loss of motion.

Bone spurs are bony overgrowths that occur around the joint (i.e., at the end of the thigh bone or top of the shin bone) and are in response to abnormal stresses placed across that area.

These are most commonly seen in patients with degenerative joint disease (DJD or arthritis). Sports injuries or trauma may move the joint too much one way or another causing small pieces of bone or cartilage to shear off.

Cause & Symptoms


The diagnosis of loose bodies follows a particular pattern while you are seen in the office a detailed history is obtained in order to determine the cause of the loose bodies.

A physical examination is performed to determine possible motion loss or loss of strength. The exam may also determine what motions of the knee are most painful for the patient. Plain x-rays of the knee joint may show the loose bodies.

An MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or MRA (Magnetic Resonance Arthogram), which is an MRI using dye injected into the joint, can be used also to find positioning of the loose bodies within the joint.

A CT (Computed Tonography) may also be used less frequently to see where the bodies are sitting within the knee joint.

Treatment Options

Arthroscopic surgery is utilized to directly visualize the inside of the joint and remove these fragments. Additional measures to smooth out roughened edges of the cartilage may be performed as needed. Bone spurs are usually seen as a component of arthritis in the knee and are usually addressed as part of total knee replacement surgery.

Your Providers

Great Lakes Physical Therapy

The Physical Therapy team at Great Lakes Orthopedics offer a wide range of programs and specialized services to help our patients restore and maintain their physical strength, performance skills, and levels of function. Our well-trained, professional staff utilize the most progressive treatment options and techniques to ensure the best possible recoveries.

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