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.

Outerbridge Grade 0 cartilage - normal knee cartilage

Normal joint cartilage of patella (seen above the femoral groove) (Grade 0).

Outerbridge Grade I - Chondromalacia or softening of the joint cartilage

Chondromalacia - softening of the patellar joint cartilage, which can be dimpled with a rounded probe (Grade I).


Chondromalacia is a description, not a disorder

Chondromalacia is not a disease but simply a descriptive term. When a surgeon identifies softened joint cartilage during arthroscopy, he will generally use a grading system for his notes.


Grading cartilage damage (Outerbridge classification)

0 cartilage is normal and intact  
1 cartilage has some softening and blistering grade 1 cartilage softening
2 partial thickness (less than 50%) defect or minor tears in the surface of the cartilage grade 2 cartilage damage
3 deeper defect (more than 50%) grade 3 cartilage damage
4 full thickness cartilage loss with exposure of the subchondral bone grade 4 cartilage damage

What are the common kneecap problems?

A quick overview of kneecap problems to help you with your research.

Dr Ronald Grelsamer explains how the term 'chondromalacia' should only be used in a particular context.

Dr Ronald Grelsamer explains why there is confusion surrounding the term 'chondromalacia'.



The etiology of chondromalacia patellae. Outerbridge RE. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1961 Nov;43-B:752-7.

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