There are two forms of cartilage in the knee; the two meniscal cartilage discs or cushions, and the articular cartilage on the ends of the bones. Some physicians might be referring to a meniscus tear.  

True Cartilage defects on the end of the bones could be the result of a traumatic injury, OsteonecrosisOsteochondritis Dessicans, or simply the early stages of Osteoarthritis.

When a surgeon says you are “missing cartilage” in your knee, more often than not, he or she is referring to the articular cartilage on the end of your bone.

Disclaimer:  this information is for your education and should not be considered medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment recommendations. Some links on this page may be affiliate links. Read the full disclaimer.

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About the author:

Howard J. Luks, MD

Howard J. Luks, MD

A Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon in Hawthorne, NY. Dr. Howard Luks specializes in the treatment of the shoulder, knee, elbow, and ankle. He has a very "social" patient centric approach and believes that the more you understand about your issue, the more informed your decisions will be. Ultimately your treatments and his recommendations will be based on proper communications, proper understanding, and shared decision-making principles – all geared to improve your quality of life.

10 comments on “I have been told I am “missing cartilage” in my knee…what does this mean?

  • Congrats describing the I have been told I am “missing cartilage” in my knee…what does this mean? – Howard J. Luks, MD – Chief of Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy. I’ve read quite a few posts during the past couple of hours in regards to this topic and yours sticks out. Carry on doing your work, it’s surely doing the job.

  • ? Had meniscus surgery sept, 2012, doctor told my husband and myself that I had a little arthritis and that he scraped it. Went to therapy and the pain and movement of my left knee was getting worst, back and forth to doctor for pain mess, not working. Finally, doctor looked at me angrily and told me that I had arthritis and that he had not scraped the knee, I just looked at him in shock and left the office. Was at foot doctor and she asked why was I limping so bad, and I explained what happened. She gave me a name to another doctor, I explained what happened. First thing he did was to take x-rays. Well, right knee looked great, left knee was total bone on bone (the hold knee),. Doctor suggested synvisc treat, so far first treatment is working pretty good, have to wait six months for next treatment.

    How am I missing the cartilage in my left knee, does not appear any is in the knee, just bone on bone?

    • Thanks for stopping by…
      You might want to get a copy of your original xrays and show them to your new physician. They can compare the two and see what happened since your surgery. My suspicion is that the arthritis was worse than suspected before the surgery. This is one of the main reasons why I always talk about trying a very conservative approach to knees with both meniscus tears and arthritis.
      Good Luck

    • I Am Going through the same thing you went through. I did have meniscus tear and repair, and he told me he couldn’t my arthritis. My pain just kept getting worse and worse now he tells me that I have no cartilage left. Is suggesting gel injections do you know anything about before and after

  • Hello, uh i am a 15 year old male. I am extremely active with soccer. Recently for 2 years, ive been having a sharp pain on the outside of my knee on both knees in the exact same part. Ive done therapy and all theyve done is ice it. And it only hurts after training or when my legs aren’t warmed up and agitated. Many say i have it band syndrome, and others say im missing cartilage, help me!

    • HI Adrian …
      Without examining you I can not give you a diagnosis …. At 15 it can be ITB syndrome, “growing pains”, or perhaps a cartilage issue. A high quality exam and MRI should be able to tell you which one it is.
      Good Luck

  • Hi, I am doing research and writing on behalf of a friend whose daughter has been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. She is 15 years old and has severe inflammation and pain in the knees. (Doctors aren’t sure if they are related issues) She just had a MRI done and also a contrast MRI. The results showed a section of missing cartilage from both knee joints (in pretty much the same areas) resulting in bone on bone from the femur to the tibia. The MRI also showed fluid inside the bone where the cartilage is missing. Her knees are constantly inflamed and the medication she is on doesn’t seem to help. They were very discouraged as they left the office due to the fact that the doctor said there was very little that could be done for her and she would just have to live the rest of her life in pain. He offered physical therapy (which they have already been through with a different doctor before they had to relocate) and it didn’t help. What devastating news for a 15 year old girl who wants to be active and live life like any other kid. Is this truly the case? Are there really no options to help her? I have read a few of your articles and treatment plans and it seems there might be help out there somewhere for her. Is this true? any suggestions? Thanks for your time

    • HI …
      So, most of the articles you are reading online and here deal primarily with cartilage defects due to trauma, or injury. Some of the articles such as the Distraction Arthroplasty have shown promise in knees with Osteoarthritis, but to my knowledge have not been used in patients with Rheumatoid arthritis. This is a situation where you need to find someone who performs many cartilage regeneration procedures to get their take. We tend to be concentrated in metropolitan regions. Your friends also need to find a rheumatologist who can calm down the rheumatoid disease itself. Otherwise any attempt at cartilage regeneration can fail.

  • Hi, I am 53 female and a fitness trainer, I had meniscus and plica resection January, I had cortisone injections and then a series of 3 injections of Euflexxa it has been 5 weeks, and told I was missing cartilage behind knee cap, I wear my brace, to help with my knee is always swollen by evening my range and pain are much worse, its been nine months, and getting frustrated, what else could be done? I want to get back to a normal life.

    • That must be very frustrating… I’m sorry to hear that.
      Unfortunately without seeing you I can not offer specific treatment or medical advice.

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