Knee

  • Anatomy
  • Conditions
  • Procedures

Knee Anatomy

The knee is a complex joint made up of different structures including bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles. They all work together to maintain normal function and provide stability to the knee during movement.

Having a well-functioning healthy knee is essential for our mobility and ability to participate in various activities. Understanding the anatomy of the knee enhances your ability to discuss and choose the right treatment procedure for knee problems with your doctor.

Bones of the Knee

The knee is a hinge joint made up of two bones, the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). There are two round knobs at the end of the femur called femoral condyles which articulate with the flat surface of the tibia called the tibial plateau. The tibia plateau on the inside of the leg is called the medial tibial plateau, and on the outside of the leg it is called the lateral tibial plateau.

The two femoral condyles form a groove on the front (anterior) side of the knee called the patellofemoral groove. A small bone called the patella sits in this groove and forms the kneecap. It acts as a shield and protects the knee joint from direct trauma.

A fourth bone called the fibula is the other bone of the lower leg. This forms a small joint with the tibia. This joint has very little movement and is not considered a part of the main joint of the knee.

Articular Cartilage and Menisci of the Knee

Movement of the bones causes friction between the articulating surfaces. To reduce this friction, all articulating surfaces involved in movement are covered with a white, shiny, slippery layer called articular cartilage. The articulating surface of the femoral condyles, tibial plateaus and the back of the patella are covered with this cartilage. The cartilage provides a smooth surface that facilitates easy movement.

To further reduce friction between the articulating surfaces of the bones, the knee joint is lined by a synovial membrane which produces a thick clear fluid called synovial fluid. This fluid lubricates and nourishes the cartilage and bones inside the joint capsule.

Within the knee joint, between the femur and tibia, there are two C shaped cartilaginous structures called menisci. Menisci function to provide stability to the knee by spreading the weight of the upper body across the whole surface of the tibial plateau. The menisci help in load- bearing by preventing the weight from concentrating onto a small area, which could damage the articular cartilage. The menisci also act as a cushion between the femur and tibia by absorbing the shock produced by activities such as walking, running and jumping.

Ligaments of the Knee

Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that connect one bone to another bone. The ligaments of the knee function to stabilize the knee joint. There are two important groups of ligaments that hold the bones of the knee joint together, collateral ligaments and the cruciate ligament.

Collateral ligaments are present on either side of the knee. They function to prevent the knee from moving too far during side to side motion. The collateral ligament on the inside is called the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the collateral ligament on the outside is called the lateral collateral ligament (LCL).

Cruciate ligaments, present inside the knee joint, control the back-and-forth motion of the knee. The cruciate ligament in the front of the knee is called anterior cruciate ligament or ACL and the cruciate ligament in the back of the knee is called posterior cruciate ligament or PCL.

Muscles of the Knee

Muscles: There are two major muscles, the quadriceps and the hamstrings, which enable movement of the knee joint. The quadriceps muscles are in the front of the thigh. When the quadriceps muscles contract, the knee straightens. The hamstrings are in the back of the thigh. When the hamstring muscles contract, the knee bends.

Tendons of the Knee

Tendons are structures that attach muscles to the bone. The quadriceps muscles of the knee meet just above the patella and attach to it through a tendon called the quadriceps tendon. The patella further attaches to the tibia through a tendon called the patella tendon. The quadriceps muscle, quadriceps tendon and patellar tendon all work together to straighten the knee. Similarly, the hamstring muscles at the back of the leg are attached to the knee joint with the hamstring tendon.

Knee Pain

Knee Pain

Knee pain is a common condition affecting individuals from different age groups. It not only affects movement but also impacts the quality of life of the individual. An injury or disease of the knee joint or any structure surrounding the knee can result in knee pain. A precise diagnosis of the underlying cause is important to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

Chondral (Articular Cartilage Defects)

Chondral (Articular Cartilage Defects)

Articular or hyaline cartilage is the tissue lining the surface of the two bones in the knee joint. Cartilage helps the bones move smoothly against each other and can withstand the weight of the body during activities such as running and jumping. Articular cartilage does not have a direct blood supply to it, so has less capacity to repair itself. Once the cartilage is torn it will not heal easily and can lead to degeneration of the articular surface, leading to development of osteoarthritis.

Patella Fracture

Patella Fracture

The kneecap or patella is the largest sesamoid bone in the body and one of the components of the knee joint, present at the front of the knee. The undersurface of the kneecap and the lower end of the femur are coated with articular cartilage, which helps in smooth movement of the knee joint. The kneecap protects the knee and provides attachment to various muscle groups of the thigh and leg. Fracture of the kneecap is rare and is more common in adult males.

ACL Tears

ACL Tears

The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of the major ligaments of the knee that is in the middle of the knee and runs from the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone). It prevents the tibia from sliding out in front of the femur. Together with posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) it provides rotational stability to the knee.

An ACL injury is a sports-related injury that occurs when the knee is forcefully twisted or hyperextended.

MCL Tears

MCL Tears

The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is the ligament that is located on the inner part of the knee joint. It runs from the femur (thighbone) to the top of the tibia (shinbone) and helps in stabilizing the knee.

Medial collateral ligament (MCL) injury can result in a stretch, partial tear, or complete tear of the ligament.

PCL Injuries

PCL Injuries

Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), one of four major ligaments of the knee, is situated at the back of the knee. It connects the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). The PCL limits the backward motion of the shinbone.

PCL injuries are very rare and are more difficult to detect than other knee ligament injuries. Cartilage injuries, bone bruises, and ligament injuries often occur in combination with PCL injuries.

Multiligament Instability

Multiligament Instability

The knee is a complex joint of the body which is vital for movement. The four major ligaments of the knee are anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and lateral collateral ligament. They play an important role in maintaining the stability of the knee. A multiligament injury is a tear in one or more ligaments of the knee, thus affecting the knee stability.

Meniscal Tears

Meniscal Tears

Meniscus tear is the commonest knee injury in athletes, especially those involved in contact sports. A sudden bend or twist in your knee causes the meniscus to tear. This is a traumatic meniscus tear. Elderly people are more prone to degenerative meniscal tears as the cartilage wears out and weakens with age. The two wedge-shaped cartilage pieces present between the thighbone and the shinbone are called meniscus. They stabilize the knee joint and act as “shock absorbers”.

Knee Arthrosocpy

Knee Arthroscopy

Knee Arthroscopy is a common surgical procedure performed using an arthroscope, a viewing instrument, to diagnose or treat a knee problem. It is a relatively safe procedure and most of the patients are discharged from the hospital on the same day of surgery.

The knee joint is vulnerable to a variety of injuries. The most common knee problems where knee arthroscopy may be recommended for diagnosis and treatment are:

Arthroscopic Reconstruction of the Knee for Ligament Injuries

Arthroscopic Reconstruction of the Knee for Ligament Injuries

Knee ligament injuries are common in athletes involved in contact sports such as soccer, football and basketball. Knee ligament injuries are graded based on the severity of injury.
In grade I, the ligament is mildly damaged and slightly stretched, but the knee joint is stable.

Cartilage Replacement

Cartilage Replacement

Cartilage replacement is a surgical procedure performed to replace the worn-out cartilage with new cartilage. It is usually performed to treat patients with small areas of cartilage damage usually caused by sports or traumatic injuries. It is not indicated for those patients who have advanced arthritis of the knee. Articular or hyaline cartilage is the tissue that covers bone surface of the knee which helps in smooth interaction between the two bones in the knee joint. It has less capacity to repair by itself because there is no direct blood supply to cartilage.

OATS

OATS

OATS is “osteochondral autograft transfer system”. It is one of the two types of cartilage transfer procedures and the other procedure is “Mosaicplasty”. Cartilage transfer procedures involve moving healthy cartilage from a non-weight-bearing area of the knee to a damaged area of the cartilage in the knee. In mosaicplasty, plugs of cartilage and bone are taken from a healthy cartilage area and moved to replace the damaged cartilage of the knee. Multiple tiny plugs are used and once embedded, resemble a mosaic pattern, hence the name. With the OATS procedure, the plugs are larger.

Bicompartmental Knee Resurfacing

Bicompartmental Knee Resurfacing

The knee can be divided into three compartments: Patellofemoral, the compartment on the front of the knee which contains the kneecap, medial compartment, the compartment on the inside of the knee, and lateral compartment which is the area on the outside of the knee joint.

ACL Reconstruction

ACL Reconstruction

The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the major stabilizing ligaments in the knee. It is a strong rope- like structure located in the center of the knee running from the femur to the tibia. When this ligament tears unfortunately, it does not heal and often leads to the feeling of instability in the knee.

An ACL injury most commonly occurs during sports that involve twisting or overextending your knee. An ACL can be injured in several ways:

MCL Reconstruction

MCL Reconstruction

Medial collateral ligament (MCL) is one of four major ligaments of the knee that connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone) and is present on the inside of the knee joint. This ligament helps stabilize the knee.

An injury to the MCL may occur as a result of direct impact to the knee. An MCL injury can result in a minor stretch (sprain) or a partial or complete tear of the ligament.

PCL Reconstruction

PCL Reconstruction

Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), one of four major ligaments of the knee is situated at the back of the knee. It connects the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). The PCL limits the backward motion of the shinbone.

PCL injuries are very rare and are more difficult to detect than other knee ligament injuries. Cartilage injuries, bone bruises, and ligament injuries often occur in combination with PCL injuries.

Meniscal Surgery

Meniscal Surgery

A meniscus tear is the commonest knee injury in athletes, especially those involved in contact sports. A sudden bend or twist in your knee can cause the meniscus to tear. This is a traumatic meniscal tear. Elderly people are more prone to degenerative meniscal tears as the cartilage wears out and weakens with age.

The two wedge-shaped cartilage pieces present between the thighbone and the shinbone are called menisci.