In orthopedics, a plica is a band of tissue that emanates from the soft tissue lining, or capsule of a joint. These soft tissue bands can then rub over other anatomic structures of the joint. The knee joint is very commonly involved. Plica bands can form as you grow, or as a result of direct trauma, or overuse. Some plica bands do not cause any symptoms. However, they are known to cause pain, swelling, catching, popping, and burning inside a joint. Frequently you may experience symptoms over the inner aspect of your knee. All ages can be affected by plica syndrome.
Plica syndrome is diagnosed by your physician via careful history and physical exam. Examination includes direct palpation of the plica bands and the areas that they may be irritating. Range of motion and stability testing is also important in evaluating plica syndrome. X-rays are taken to rule out fractures, dislocations, tumors, calcific deposits, osteoarthritis, and to evaluate for bone spurs. MRI scans may be obtained when symptoms persist.
Treatment of symptomatic plica consists of an initial trial of rest, icing, and anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy is often prescribed. If these measures do not provide relief, often an MRI may be obtained. A short course of steroid may be prescribed, either by oral medications or by an injection. Occasionally, the symptoms of plica syndrome persist despite all conservative measures, therefore requiring arthroscopic assessment of the joint to clip and remove them.