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Kneecap Surgery: Removing Damaged Cartilage

Surgery may be used when pain severely limits your activities. Or it may be done when a rehab program or other nonsurgical treatments just are not helping enough. Some procedures may be done using arthroscopy. This method uses tiny cuts (incisions) and special tools to look and work inside the knee joint. Other procedures need open surgery.

Cartilage removal

Damaged cartilage is taken out from the back of the kneecap or from the groove in the thighbone. This is often done using arthroscopy.


This method removes damaged cartilage on the kneecap or thighbone (femur). It makes a smoother surface between them. 

Back view of patella showing instrument removing damaged cartilage.


This procedure is done when the cartilage is worn down to the bone. Burring into the bone reaches the blood supply. This allows a new fibrous covering to grow.

Back view of patella showing instrument burring damaged cartilage.

Recovering from surgery

As you recover, you can aid the healing process by taking it easy at first. Follow your surgeon's instructions. Your knee may be bandaged, wrapped, or iced to keep swelling down. You may be given a brace to protect your knee. This helps improve your range of motion and speed healing. Keep your leg raised above your heart so fluid can drain away and swelling is reduced. Surgery is often followed by a rehab or physical therapy program.

Online Medical Reviewer: Rahul Banerjee MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2024
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