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:

  • 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.
  • Ability 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.

Last Updated: September 24, 2009

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