Open debridement and soft tissue release as a salvage procedure for the severely arthrofibrotic knee

Am J Sports Med. Sep-Oct 1999;27(5):552-61. doi: 10.1177/03635465990270050201.


Postoperative loss of knee motion is a well-recognized phenomenon. This paper reports our results with open debridement and soft tissue release as a salvage procedure in the treatment of patients with severe arthrofibrosis on whom arthroscopic surgical techniques had failed. Eight knees (eight patients) were identified retrospectively. There were four men and four women; mean age was 29 years. All had severely restricted motion with extensive intraarticular and periarticular fibrosis. Range of motion averaged 62.5 degrees preoperatively (flexion 81 degrees, loss of extension 18.8 degrees). Patients underwent open debridement and soft tissue release to restore motion. There were no complications. Motion improved to an average of 124 degrees after surgery. Average flexion improved from 81 degrees to 125 degrees . Loss of extension improved from 18.8 degrees to 1.25 degrees. Functional outcome was good, with Lysholm II scores averaging 79. Patient satisfaction was high. There was a high incidence of patellofemoral arthritis at follow-up. Furthermore, the patellar tendon shortened approximately 6 mm over time. While we do not advocate open debridement and soft tissue release as a first-line treatment for arthrofibrosis, we do conclude that it can be effective as a salvage procedure to restore motion in the profoundly arthrofibrotic knee.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
  • Arthritis / etiology
  • Cicatrix / surgery
  • Debridement*
  • Female
  • Femur / pathology
  • Fibrosis
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Joint Diseases / surgery*
  • Knee Injuries / surgery
  • Knee Joint / pathology
  • Knee Joint / surgery*
  • Male
  • Patella / pathology
  • Patellar Ligament / pathology
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Postoperative Complications / surgery*
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tissue Adhesions / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome