What is Articular Cartilage?
Articular cartilage covers the ends of bones where they meet to form joints. This covering allows joints to move smoothly with little friction, and enables us to move about freely. However, cartilage does break down over time, or can be damaged from injuries. Unfortunately, cartilage cannot repair itself, and the areas where it is worn down may become painful and lead to arthritis. The knees, shoulders and ankles are common areas for articular cartilage replacements.
Many restorative procedures use arthroscopy to repair the affected area. This technique allows for quicker recovery than open procedures. However, your doctor should discuss procedure options with you when determining the best treatment route.
The most common cartilage restoration procedures include:
- Microfracture – multiple holes are made in the joint surface to promote new blood supply and a healing response in the subchondral bone
- Drilling – similar to microfracture, a small drill creates the holes to promote a healing response in the subchrondral bone. However, the holes are made using an arthroscope, which can be less precise than a microfracture
- Abrasion arthroplasty – small burrs are used to cause small areas of bleeding from the bone in the affected area to promote production of new fibro-cartilage. In this procedure, high speed burrs are used instead of wires or drills
- Autologous Chondryte Implantation – new cartilage cells are grown from healthy cartilage, and implanted in the affected area
- Osteochondral Autograft Transplantation – healthy cartilage is transferred from one part of the joint to the area requiring repair
- Osteochondral Allograft Transplantion – considered when the defect is too large for an autograft, an allograft consists of using cadaver donor tissue to replace the missing cartilage
Because of the regenerative nature of most cartilage replacements, great care must be taken to protect the joint surface during recovery. Walking aids like crutches may be necessary to move around for a few weeks after surgery.
Physical therapy may be recommended to help restore mobility and strengthen the joint and muscles around it.
For more information on articular cartilage restoration or to schedule an appointment, please visit www.neorthohospital.com.