Arthrofibrosis is a condition of the knees that causes pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. This is due to scar tissue and/or contractures that develop within the knee joint after surgery or an untreated injury. The complication of arthrofibrosis after knee surgery is not entirely preventable and requires careful evaluation and treatment. The severity of arthrofibrosis differs, and can include small amounts of scar tissue, or severe scarring that can result in chronic pain and stiffness. This condition is not rare, and can be treated. It is vital that a specialized surgeon evaluate the exact cause of the scarring in order to address the problem, and eliminate the recurrence of scar tissue that occurs following any orthopedic knee surgery.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of arthrofibrosis include: pain, stiffness, limited ability to straighten the leg, limping, and swelling. Loss of motion in the knee is the most prominent symptom. Your physician will conduct a thorough examination of the knee and will require a full patient history in order to understand any previous injuries and/or surgeries that have taken place. An X-ray and MRI will be required to allow your physician to determine the possible causes of the complication, and to assess for additional pathology.


Treatment for arthrofibrosis may initially include non-operative measures such as: rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. For more severe cases, orthopedic knee surgery may be needed. Your physician will use an arthroscopic method to treat arthrofibrosis. Using a small camera, once inside the knee joint, he will be able to gain full visualization of the scar tissue, including the severity and location. During the procedure he will release any scar tissue build-up.


Following arthroscopic knee surgery, patients will follow a rehabilitation program set forth by your physician. Therapy will be progressive and will include: stretching and strengthening the knee to regain range of motion. Your physician will act with caution during rehab to ensure relapse does not occur. In cases of arthrofibrosis, physical therapy is crucial to a successful recovery.