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Intra-articular loose bodies

Dr Frank Gaillard et al.

Intra-articular loose bodies can result from a variety of pathological processes.

Use of the term loose is frowned upon by some because the fragments do not necessarily rattle around in the joint - the term intra-articular fragment is a safer alternative.

Clinical presentation

Patients may be entirely asymptomatic, or complain of pain, clicking and locking, depending on the location and mobility of the fragment as well as any associated secondary degenerative disease, and symptoms from the underlying cause.


Intra-articular bodies are composed of cartilage or cartilage and bone and result form any process that leads to disruption of the articular surface. They derive nutrition from synovial fluid and contain any of the cells of bone or cartilage. The surface cells form more cartilaginous layers, so enlarging the body over time. Deeper cells receive less nutrition resulting in cell death and calcification 2.


A wide range of conditions can lead to the development of intra-articular loose bodies: 

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