Causes for the Knee to Crack After Surgery

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The Process

  • While modern surgical procedures can repair or replace a faulty knee joint, some patients may continue to hear cracking or popping noises or feel a "catching" sensation in the knee after recovering from the procedure. These noises or sensations may be a complication from the procedure or a natural part of the new joint function.

Knee Problems

  • As the largest joint in the human body, the knee contains many delicate structures that can easily suffer damage through injury or wear. Popping, clicking or a feeling that the knee is "catching" can indicate the need for knee surgery, especially if the sufferer also feels pain or the knee gives way under weight-bearing conditions.

Knee Surgery

  • Knee surgeries vary in complexity and scope. X-rays and a process called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can help a surgeon determine which parts of the knee require surgery. Smaller procedures may call for arthroscopic surgery, in which the surgeon works through a small cut while viewing the details on a video monitor. Repair or replacement of a single ligament or cartilage may restore stability and strength to the knee. If the knee is severely damaged, however, the surgeon must replace the joint with a prosthetic (artificial) joint. Arthroscopic surgery patients can usually go home after only one to two hours in the recovery room.

Post-Operative Noises

  • A clicking or cracking sound in the repaired knee may not indicate any problems or surgical failure. In most cases, some noise in the knee continues to occur as a natural result of the procedure. In a knee replacement, for instance, the metal and plastic components of the prosthetic implant may come together or spread apart as weight is transferred to or from the joint, causing a clicking or cracking sound.
    A rarer condition called patellar clunk syndrome can also cause noise following knee replacement surgery. In this case, scar tissue forms toward the top of the kneecap and then "catches" on a metal groove in the implant whenever the knee bends. Unlike most cases of knee cracking or popping, patellar clunk syndrome also causes pain.

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