Loose Body Removal (Knee)

Occasionally, small fragments of bone and cartilage around the knee joint can become separated and float loosely through the joint. This often causes the joints to lock up, causing pain and immobility. These pieces of fragments are called “loose bodies” and they often need to be surgically removed. 


Loose body removal is a minimally invasive procedure where the surgeon removes any loose fragments of bone, cartilage, or other tissue from the knee joint. These loose bodies can bring a patient significant pain while moving and even at rest. 

Causes of Loose Bodies

Loose bodies often form due to previous knee injuries or over time from degenerative arthritis of the knee. People with osteoarthritis could be more susceptible to developing loose bodies. Loose bodies could also form from scar tissue after other knee surgeries. 

People who participate in active recreational activities or perform physically rigorous jobs are at a higher risk of developing loose bodies in the knee. The most common cause of loose bodies in the knee are sports or work related injuries. People who frequently participate in athletics or work in jobs that involve a lot of heavy lifting, bending over, and other repetitive tasks should always pay close attention to whether they notice abnormal pain or changes in their mobility. People who have experienced repeated injuries to the same part of the body should also pay attention to these changes.

Symptoms of Loose Bodies

Often people with loose bodies in the knee will not be able to fully flex or extend the leg without experiencing pain. Patients may also notice knee swelling, catching or locking of the knee, and pain with movement.

It is important to contact an orthopaedic surgeon if you believe you might have loose bodies in your knee. Untreated loose bodies can cause further damage to the tissues surrounding the knee. This could quickly result in damage to the articular cartilage, possibly leading to osteoarthritis. 

The Procedure

Patients undergoing loose body removal will be under local or general anesthesia. For this procedure, surgeons use an arthroscopic approach. The surgeon will begin by making a couple keyhole incisions in the knee. Through these incisions, the surgeon will be able to view the area using an arthroscopic camera and insert the tools needed to remove the loose bodies. Through one of the portals, the knee will be filled with a sterile saline solution. This expands the knee to give the surgeon a better view of the knee and loose bodies. 

Once the loose bodies have been identified and located, the surgeon will use a grabber to remove the bodies. If any of the loose bodies have caused damage to the surfaces of the joint, the surgeon may also perform repairs while they have access to the area.

After all of the loose bodies have been removed and any additional repairs have been made, the surgeon closes the incisions, completing the surgery.

After the Procedure

Because this is an arthroscopic procedure, recovery time is much shorter compared to other surgeries. Many patients will be healed in two to four weeks. Often, your surgeon will recommend you participate in physical therapy during your recovery process. These activities will help you regain the range of motion you previously lost and help ensure that no scar tissue forms within the joint as it heals from surgery.

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