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This inflammation is typically caused by the plica being caught on the femur, or pinched between the femur and the patella. The most common location of plica tissue is along the medial (inside) side of the knee. The plica can tether the patella to the femur, be located between the femur and patella, or be located along the femoral condyle. If the plica tethers the patella to the femoral condyle, the symptoms may cause it to be mistaken for chondromalacia patellae. Plica are sometimes visible on MRI.
The plica themselves are remnants of the fetal stage of development where the knee is divided into three compartments. The plica normally diminish in size during the second trimester of fetal development, as the three compartments develop into the synovial capsule. In adults, they normally exist as sleeves of tissue called synovial folds. The plica are usually harmless and unobtrusive; plica syndrome only occurs when the synovial capsule becomes irritated, which thickens the plica themselves (making them prone to irritation/inflammation, or being caught on the femur).
Plica syndrome treatment focuses on decreasing inflammation of the synovial capsule. A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication NSAID is often used in conjunction with therapeutic exercise and modalities. Iontophoresis and phonophoresis have been utilized successfully against inflammation of the plica and synovial capsule. Failing these, surgical removal of the plica of the affected knee may be necessary.