knee bend range
Measuring the arc of motion of the knee joint. Jan-Otto / Getty Images

Arthrofibrosis is a condition that leads to scar tissue formation around a joint.  This condition often follows a traumatic injury or surgical procedure. Often seen after procedures such as ACL reconstruction surgery, arthrofibrosis is due to inflammation and proliferation of scar tissue.

Under The Microscope

When arthrofibrosis occurs, a dense fibrous tissue forms in abundance. This can bind down the joint, and prevent normal range of motion.

Prevention of arthrofibrosis is best accomplished with early motion following surgery. Arthrofibrosis used to be much more common after ACL surgery when doctors used to restrict patients mobility.  Now most surgeons are instructing their patients to move the joint within hours of surgery, and arthrofibrosis is much less common.  This accelerated rehab progression has lowered the likelihood of arthrofibrosis. 

Treatment of Arthrofibrosis

If the problem of arthrofibrosis cannot be solved with aggressive therapy, then surgery may be necessary to improve joint movement.  The two options are either a manipulation under anesthesia, or surgical removal of the scar tissue.  A manipulation is a non-surgical procedure where your physician forcefully bends the joint while the patient is under anesthesia to break the scar formation.  Surgery to remove scar tissue is more common, and typically this can be performed as an arthroscopic surgery.

  Following surgery, it is important to begin an aggressive physical therapy to regain motion.

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