Cartilage regeneration surgery

What is it?

Articular cartilage is the soft covering of bones that allows joint surfaces to glide smoothly over each other. Cartilage can be damaged by twisting or impact in sports injuries or can be associated with early arthritis in older patients. Cartilage has a limited capacity to self heal, however if a cartilage problem is small enough its symptoms may settle with time. Larger areas of cartilage damage frequently remain symptomatic and may require surgery.

Cartilage regeneration surgery is used to treat joint surface cartilage damage. The articular cartilage is the weight-bearing surface in joints and it cannot repair itself. Treatment will be needed to stop the eventual development of osteoarthritis caused by degeneration. Sports injuries are the primary cause of cartilage damage.

You may need surgery if you have the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Catching or locking with in the knee
  • Recurrent swelling

Diagnosis and treatment options

Your consultant will take a detailed history of your symptoms, followed by a thorough examination of your knee. You might need some additional tests:

  • X-ray
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

Cartilage repair surgery aims to regenerate damaged cartilage using a host of techniques from microfracture (a keyhole simple operation) through to chondrocyte transplantation, where your own cells are used to restore the damaged joint surface. A sample of your cartilage is harvested by keyhole surgery and is grown and expanded in the laboratory. These cells are then re-implanted in the damaged area.

Cartilage regeneration surgery is usually carried out as a day case procedure, however it requires approximately six weeks on crutches after surgery to allow the new joint surface to incorporate.

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