Surgical Information

Knee Microfracture

What is knee microfracture?

Knee microfracture is a surgical technique to repair damaged articular cartilage, the tissue that covers the ends of the knee bones and allows the joint to move smoothly.

In this minimally invasive technique, the surgeon makes several small incisions around the knee joint and inserts a narrow fiber optic scope (called an arthroscope) to examine the condition of the joint. The surgeon then uses a miniature tool (called an awl) to make multiple small holes, or microfractures, in the surface of the bone near the damaged cartilage. The holes stimulate the cells in your bones to build new cartilage to replace the damaged tissue.


The knee is the largest joint in the body and one of the most complex. It is made up of the femur (thighbone), tibia (shinbone) and patella (kneecap). Articular cartilage, the soft lining that cushions the end of knee bones, can erode from normal wear and tear or a traumatic injury. Once damaged, cartilage continues to deteriorate causing pain, loss of function, disability and potential long-term complications such as osteoarthritis.

When is surgery recommended?

Candidates for knee microfracture include people with limited areas of cartilage damage in the knee joint or under the kneecap, and those with pain and swelling due to cartilage injuries. The procedure is frequently performed on athletes after they injure their joints.

The goal of knee microfracture is to prevent or slow further damage to the cartilage and help prevent the development of osteoarthritis in the future. However, this procedure is not for everyone.Patients with widespread knee arthritis, instability or malalignment of the joint are not good candidates for microfracture. It is important you consult a qualified orthopedic surgeon to determine the best treatment option for you.

What is the recovery time?

Recovery from knee microfracturetakes time. Depending on the location of the microfractureand size of the defect, recovery can take from four to six months. A rehabilitation program to restore flexibility, strength and range of motion is crucial to optimize success. While most people successfully return to sports and other daily activities, some athletes in high-impact sports may not achieve their former level.

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