What are osteochondral defects?

These are localised areas of damage to the cartilage surface of the knee joint. It’s like a pothole on an otherwise good road surface, unlike (osteo)arthritis which is like a worn road surface. The bone underneath the region of cartilage can also be damaged. Focal cartilage defects can be caused by trauma, repetitive overload and are often associated with ligament injuries. Cartilage injuries usually do not heal spontaneously and can worsen over time.

What are the symptoms of osteochondral defects?

These injuries tend to cause pain and swelling but can sometimes be pain-free. If a fragment of cartilage breaks away it can float around in the knee and cause a sudden painful limitation in knee movement, known as “mechanical locking”.

How are osteochondral defects diagnosed?

Usually the symptoms and a careful examination will suggest the diagnosis. This is usually confirmed with an x-ray or MRI scan. Sometimes a CT scan can be helpful.

How are they treated?

Very small areas of damage that aren’t causing many symptoms can be managed with over the counter pain killers and exercises under the guidance of a physiotherapist. Impact activities should be avoided. Weight loss can be helpful. Unfortunately, larger symptomatic defects often require surgery. The options are dictated by the size and location of the injury: smaller areas are treated by techniques such as microfracture or osteochondral plug transfer; larger areas are treated by techniques such as autologous chondrocyte implantation or stem cell therapy. An alternative is to use a small metallic or polymer implant to resurface the defect. Whichever treatment is chosen, it is very important to assess and address underlying knee problems such as abnormal leg alignment, ligament instability or significant loss of meniscal tissue. These issues could increase the chance of failure of treatment and could have contributed to the cartilage injury in the first place.

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury or is experiencing pain across their lower limbs or difficulty with mobility and would like a consultant-led review, please contact us. Grosvenor Orthopaedics have extensive experience in the treatment of knee-related injuries with excellent patient outcomes.


Grosvenor Orthopaedics have extensive experience in the treatment of knee-related injuries with excellent patient outcomes.


If you would like to learn about other knee conditions click the button below to find out more


If you would like to learn about other knee treatments click the button below to find out more


The Knee Service at Grosvenor Orthopaedic Partners is led by Mr Luke Jones and Mr Chethan Jayadev, both Oxford PhD educated knee surgeons with London Teaching Hospital NHS consultant posts. They provide a comprehensive range of knee procedures as part of a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals including highly specialised physiotherapists, all committed to returning you to optimal function.

Our team are well placed to manage and treat a diverse range of knee problems utilising cutting edge diagnostic technology and treatment approaches, both surgical and conservative. Below is an overview of some of the knee conditions we treat but for a more thorough understanding please contact our team here


Consultant Orthopaedic Knee Surgeon

DPhil(Oxon), FRCS(Tr&Orth), MB BS, BSc(hons)
Luke is a Consultant Knee Surgeon practising at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and the Lister Hospital, Chelsea. He runs a high volume bespoke specialist knee practice that deals with all aspects of knee surgery from minor sports injuries to complex joint reconstructions.


Consultant Orthopaedic Knee Surgeon

MA(Oxon) BMBCh DPhil(PhD) FRCS(Tr&Orth)
Chethan is a Consultant Knee Surgeon practising at the world-renowned Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital Stanmore, Spire Bushey Hospital and King Edward VII’s Hospital. His practice encompasses all aspects of knee surgery, from sports injuries and knee preservation to complex and redo joint replacements. He has a reputation as a thorough, meticulous surgeon offering patients a bespoke and personalised service. He is dedicated to providing the most up-to-date and evidence-based care. Chethan is a strong advocate of patient choice and always puts patients first


Consultant Orthopaedic Knee Surgeon

MBBS MSc FRCS (Tr & Orth)
Mark is a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon with a passion for sports related injuries. He strives to not only provide excellent surgical treatments but also rounded, bespoke care that allows his patients to get back to the activities they love. This is evident in his specialist training which includes a Master’s degree in Sports Medicine from University College London to help him when treating all levels of athletes. Alongside surgical treatments, Mr. Webb offers non-operative (conservative) options including using orthobiologics, such as PRP and stem cells, to treat the symptoms of early arthritis, as well as tendon injuries. Treatment plans are tailored to the patient’s requirements and expectations using the best evidence available

What some of our patients say

Miss NN

Thank you and please accept my gratitude for a successful knee surgery and overall a very positive experience. This gold medal is for you!