What is cartilage repair?
Cartilage does not have its own blood supply, so once it is damaged or injured, it will likely stay the same or get worse without treatment. Most of the time, early treatment and repair can help reduce damage. If damage goes on without treatment, it may lead to a knee replacement surgery.
Who can cartilage repair help?
Cartilage repair can help people who have damaged cartilage because of:
- Overuse of the joint (usually a repetitive motion)
- Injury or trauma to the joint
- Birth defects
- Hormonal disorders that may affect bone and joint development
This surgery is not for people whose cartilage is damaged because of osteoarthritis (a condition that deteriorates the cartilage as you age).
The main benefits to cartilage repair are that it will help increase the range of motion in the knee and also help reduce pain.
What are the risks and/or side effects?
Cartilage repair is a fairly low-risk procedure that has very few complications. As with any surgery, there are certain risks, which may include:
- Complications due to anesthesia
There are these general risks to the procedure. There may also be some risks or side effects that are unique to an individual’s condition or how severe the injury is. Discuss these risks with the doctor to better decide on the best choice for treatment.
How is it done?
There are a few different types of procedure for cartilage repair. To determine which one may be the best for you, the doctor may order an MRI.
The MRI will give your doctor an image of the inside of your knee, which will help them figure out the kind of damage you have, where it is, and what procedure can work best for you.
Most knee procedures are performed arthroscopically, which means the doctor will put small tools into the knee via small incisions (cuts) rather than cutting the entire knee open. This type of procedure reduces the risk of bleeding and infection and also helps the knee heal faster. In rare cases, the doctor may need to cut the whole knee open. Talk to your doctor before your procedure to learn more about what procedure will be best for you.
Depending on the type of procedure, you may have a local anesthesia, meaning the area that will be operated on is numbed, but you are awake, or you may have a general anesthesia where you go to sleep for the surgery.
As there are different types of procedures depending on the level of damage, make sure you talk to your doctor about what to expect for your procedure.
Common Forms of the Procedure
Autologous Chondrocyte (ACT)
Cell-based Cartilage Resurfacing
When will I know the results?
Depending on the type of procedure, you may see improvement as early as a few weeks, or it may take up to a year. Talk to your doctor about the type of procedure that is recommended for you and what you can expect for your results.
After a cartilage repair procedure, you will need to keep weight off the knee that was worked on. Your doctor will likely give you crutches, which you will need to use until your doctor tells you that you don’t need them anymore.
Your doctor will closely watch your recovery to make sure everything is healing properly. You may have several follow-up visits, which you should make sure to attend. It is important to follow your doctor’s orders to make sure that you heal properly.
Make sure you talk to your doctor about the follow-up requirements for your specific procedure to make sure you understand all of the requirements.