Knee microfracture surgery


Knee microfracture surgery is a common procedure used to repair damaged knee cartilage. Cartilage is the material that helps cushion and cover the area where bones meet in the joints.

Alternative Names

Cartilage regeneration - knee


Three different types of anesthesia may be used for knee arthroscopy surgery:

The surgeon will make a 1/4-inch surgical cut (incision) on your knee.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Your doctor may recommend this procedure if you have some damage to the cartilage in the knee joint and on the underside of the kneecap.

The goal of this surgery is to prevent or slow further damage to the cartilage, preventing knee arthritis. It can help you avoid the need for a partial or total knee replacement.

This procedure is also used to treat knee pain due to cartilage injuries.

Another surgery, autologous chondrocyte implantation, is done for similar reasons.


Risks for any anesthesia are:

Risks for microfracture surgery are:

Before the Procedure

Always tell your doctor or nurse what drugs you are taking, including medicines, herbs, or supplements you bought without a prescription.

During the 2 weeks before your surgery:

On the day of your surgery:

After the Procedure

Physical therapy may begin in the recovery room right after your surgery. A machine gently exercises your leg for 6 to 8 hours a day for several weeks. This machine is usually used for 6 weeks after surgery. Ask your surgeon how long you will use it.

Your doctor will increase the exercises you do over time until you can fully move your knee again. The exercises may make new cartilage grow faster.

You will need to keep your weight off your knee for 6 to 8 weeks unless told otherwise. You will need crutches to get around. Keeping the weight off the knee helps the new cartilage grow.

You will need to go to physical therapy and do exercises at home for 3-6 months after surgery.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Many people do well after this surgery, but recovery is slow. Many people can return to sports or other intense activities in about 4 months. Athletes in very intense sports may not be able to return to their former level of competition.

The best results are usually seen on people under age 40 with a recent cartilage injury. Results are also better for people that are not overweight.


Beynnon BD, Johnson RJ, Brown L. Knee. In: DeLee JC, Drez D Jr, Miller MD, eds. DeLee and Drez’s Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2009:chap 23.

Saris DB, Vanlauwe J, Victor J, Almqvist KF, Verdonk R, Bellemans J, et al. Treatment of symptomatic cartilage defects of the knee: characterized chondrocyte implantation results in better clinical outcome at 36 months in a randomized trial compared to microfracture. Am J Sports Med. 2009 Nov;37 Suppl 1:10S-19S.

Basad E, Ishaque B, Bachmann G, Stürz H, Steinmeyer J. Matrix-inducedautologous chondrocyte implantation versus microfracture in the treatment ofcartilage defects of the knee: a 2-year randomised study. Knee Surg SportsTraumatol Arthrosc. 2010 Apr;18(4):519-27.

Hurst JM, Steadman JR, O'Brien L, Rodkey WG, Briggs KK. Rehabilitation following microfracture for chondral injury in the knee. Clin Sports Med. 2010 Apr;29(2):257-65, viii.

Vanlauwe J, Saris DB, Victor J, et al. Five-year outcome of characterized chondrocyte implantation versus microfracture for symptomatic cartilage defects of the knee: early treatment matters. Am J Sports Med. 2011 Dec;39(12):2566-74.

Review Date: 6/7/2012
Reviewed By: Dennis Ogiela, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon, Danbury Hospital, Danbury, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.