Patient Information Resources

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Toronto, AL M5N 2M7
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Child Orthopedics
Spine - Cervical
Spine - Lumbar
Spine - Thoracic

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I tore the cartilage in my left knee clear down to the bone. The doctor wants to do surgery but I'd rather let it heal on its own. Is surgery really needed for this type of problem?

Full-thickness cartilage tears of this type do not heal well on their own. Painful symptoms and loss of motion often occur. If there's a piece of cartilage or bit of bone loose in the joint, it can cause the knee to catch or lock up. The risk of further injury increases when this happens.

The problem with managing these injuries on your own is that the defect (where the cartilage and bone pulled away) tends to be a crater with deep sides. The joint cartilage has trouble filling over the gap. Without surgical repair the joint is at risk for more damage.

The end-result can be severe arthritis with pain, loss of motion, and loss of function. Early treatment of full-thickness cartilage tears is usually advised.


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