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Chondromalacia means 'softening of the gristle or joint cartilage' and usually refers to the kneecap (patella). The softening can be felt with a blunt probe during surgery.

There is a lot of confusion in the literature about chondromalacia, and it is frequently mis-diagnosed. It is the result of a problem within the knee joint, and the common initiating causes include maltracking or tilt of the patella and synovial plica. It is not a discrete diagnosis but rather a physical condition, i.e. there is softening of the joint cartilage, and it may be initiated by a number of different disorders with different causes. It is simply a stage in joint surface damage.

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