James B. Grimes, MD
mis med pro

Loose Bodies

Loose bodies are small loose fragments of cartilage or a bone that float around the joint. The loose bodies can cause pain, swelling, locking and catching of the joint. Loose bodies may occur as a result of joint injuries, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and other less common conditions. Other causes include fractures, trauma, bone and cartilage inflammation, and benign tumors of the synovial membrane.

Loose bodies are commonly found in individuals who participate in sports since they are more susceptible to fractures and other sports injuries.

Often X-ray helps in diagnosing loose bodies. However, loose bodies made of cartilage or small loose bodies that contain little or no bone may not be visible on an X-ray. In such cases, other diagnostic tests such as CT scan or arthrography, MRI scan and ultrasound may be performed to locate the loose body. For small loose bodies, your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain and swelling. However any loose body that is causing symptoms is removed.

The loose bodies are removed by arthroscopic procedure. Surgery is performed depending on the location and the size of the loose bodies.

  • A suction tip is used to withdraw the loose body or is grasped with a surgical instrument called as grasper.
  • If loose bodies are present in the joint space, a special instrument, called a mechanical burr or a resector is used to break the loose bodies. The broken pieces are then vacuumed from the knee.
  • Large loose bodies may be caused by fractures, may be reduced and fixed in position using screws or pins.
  • If the loose body is caused by benign tumor of the synovial membrane, a procedure called partial synovectomy may be done. It involves removal of part of the synovium (lining of the joint).
  • Arthrotomy is a surgical procedure that employs an open technique in which incisions are made into the joint and the loose body is removed.

Following surgery, rehabilitation program may be needed to control pain and restore function and strength to the involved joint.


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