Plica Syndrome

Often called “synovial plica syndrome,” this is a condition that is the result of a remnant of fetal tissue in the knee. The synovial plica are membranes that separate the knee into compartments during fetal development. These plica normally diminish in size during the second trimester of fetal development. In adults, they exist as sleeves of tissue called “synovial folds,” or plica. In some individuals, the synovial plica is more prominent and prone to irritation.

What is plica syndrome of the knee?

The plica on the inner side of the knee, called the “medial plica,” is the synovial tissue most prone to irritation and injury. When the knee is bent, the plica is exposed to direct injury, and it may also be injured in overuse syndromes. When the plica becomes irritated and inflamed, the condition called “plica syndrome” results.

Causes

How does a plica cause problems in the knee?

A plica causes problems when it is irritated. This can occur over a long period of time, such as when the plica is irritated by certain exercises, repetitive motions, or kneeling. Activities that repeatedly bend and straighten the knee, such as running, biking, or use of a stair-climbing machine, can irritate the medial plica and cause plica syndrome.

Injury to the plica can also happen suddenly, such as when the knee is struck in the area around the medial plica. This can occur from a fall or even from hitting the knee on the dashboard during an automobile accident. This injury to the knee can cause the plica, and the synovial tissue around the plica, to swell and become painful. The initial injury may lead to scarring and thickening of the plica tissue later. The thickened, scarred plica fold may be more likely to cause problems later.

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