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Loose Body in a Joint

A loose body is a free-floating piece of bone, cartilage, or a foreign object in a joint. The knee is the most common site for loose bodies.

Causes of loose bodies include:

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  • Degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis).
  • A chip fracture.
  • A torn piece of the cartilage.
  • An object, such as a dislodged piece of hardware from a previous surgery or a foreign object from a penetrating injury.
  • Inflammation or decreased blood supply (avascular necrosis) to the bone and cartilage, which may cause the bone to separate from the cartilage (osteochondritis dissecans).

Symptoms of a loose body in the knee joint may include:

  • Locking of the knee that comes and goes.
  • Pain and swelling of the knee that comes and goes.
  • Being able to feel the loose body by touching the knee.
  • Ongoing (chronic) stiffness.

Your doctor may order a test, such as an X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI, to help find a loose body. Surgery to remove the loose body or repair the kneecap may be needed if a loose body is causing symptoms.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised August 5, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 05, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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