Articular cartilage is the tissue that covers the ends of bones, and is primarily used to cushion joints and allow for pain-free movement. When articular cartilage becomes damaged from regular wear and tear or becomes injured from heavy use, patients may experience pain, stiffness, and inflammation when moving their joints.
Since cartilage does not contain blood vessels, there is no chance for cartilage to regrow on its own. If left untreated, damaged articular cartilage can lead to a serious disability or an early joint replacement.
While traditional treatment methods have focused on physical therapy or arthroscopic procedures, advancements in technology have made cartilage restoration a viable alternative to restore functionality especially for individuals who play sports regularly.
Cartilage restoration is ideal for patients who are under 50 years old and maintain an active lifestyle. Success rates vary on the procedure that is performed with some surgeries seeing an average success rate of 80 percent or more. A physician from the Hip Preservation Institute can tell you whether cartilage restoration is right for you.
Here are some of the cartilage restoration techniques currently available:
An Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation is a procedure that involves the patient’s own cartilage cells during surgery which are sent to a lab to isolate chondrocytes, which are cartilage-producing cells. After a period of several weeks, the multiplied cells are implanted into the damaged area. Significant rehabilitation is usually required before patients return to their regular routine.
Marrow stimulation is a procedure where surgeons drill small holes into the damaged cartilage until the underlying bone is exposed. This procedure, which is performed during an arthroscopy, causes scar cartilage to form in the damaged area, and is very good for small lesions.
An osteochondral allograft transplantation is a procedure that involves transferring the cartilage tissue from an organ donor to the damaged cartilage of a patient.
An osteochondral autograft transfer is a procedure where surgeons replace damaged cartilage with healthy cartilage extracted from another joint of the same patient. The cartilage is typically removed from a non-load bearing joint.