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General evaluation of the adult with knee pain

Bruce C Anderson, MD
Section Editor
Karl B Fields, MD
Deputy Editor
Jonathan Grayzel, MD, FAAEM


The knee is the largest human joint in terms of its volume and surface area of articulating cartilage. The knee joint has the greatest susceptibility to injury, age-related wear and tear, inflammatory arthritis, and septic arthritis [1].

This review provides a general approach to the evaluation of knee pain in adults. An in-depth discussion of how to assess knee pain in the active adult or adult athlete, who is more likely to have sustained a musculoskeletal injury, is found separately. More in-depth discussions of the diagnosis and treatment of specific disorders of the knee are also provided separately. (See "Approach to the adult with knee pain likely of musculoskeletal origin" and "Radiologic evaluation of the acutely painful knee in adults".)


The anatomy and biomechanics of the knee are reviewed separately. (See "Approach to the adult with knee pain likely of musculoskeletal origin", section on 'Basic knee anatomy and biomechanics'.)


Overview — Knee pain can be broadly categorized as due to one or more of the following:

An intraarticular process such as a meniscal or ligamentous injury (internal derangement) or fracture


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Literature review current through: Dec 2016. | This topic last updated: Mon Apr 18 00:00:00 GMT+00:00 2016.
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