Fifty-seven consecutive patients (33 men and 24 women), with a mean age of 32 years (range 16-53 years), who suffered from an isolated full-thickness cartilage defect of the patella and disabling knee pain of long duration, were treated by autologous periosteal transplantation to the cartilage defect. The first 38 consecutive patients (group A) were postoperatively treated with continuous passive motion (CPM), and the next 19 consecutive patients (group B) were treated with active motion for the first 5 days postoperatively. In both groups, the initial regimens were followed by active motion, slowly progressive strength training, and slowly progressive weight bearing. In group A, after a mean follow-up of 51 months (range 33-92 months), 29 patients (76%) were graded as excellent or good, 7 patients (19%) were graded as fair, and 2 patients (5%) were graded as poor. In group B, after a mean follow-up of 21 months (range 14-28 months), 10 patients (53%) were graded as excellent or good, 6 patients (32%) were graded as fair, and 3 patients (15%) were graded as poor. Altogether, nine of the fair or poor cases (50%) were diagnosed with chondromalacia of the patella. Our results, after performing autologous periosteal transplantation in patients with full-thickness cartilage defects of the patella and disabling knee pain, are good if CPM is used postoperatively. The clinical results using active motion postoperatively are not acceptable, especially not in patients with chondromalacia of the patella.