Cartilage injuries are common, especially in the knee joint, and can lead to degenerative arthritis. Articular cartilage in joints provides a smooth surface area for joint motion with minimal friction, and can be damaged by a traumatic injury, or chronic excessive loads. The knee joint has a medial and lateral menisci, which are semi-circular discs of fibrocartilage. The menisci provide shock absorption, even force distribution, and act as an aid in joint stabilization. Healing can be challenging given its poor vascularization.
The treatment approach for these lesions depend upon patient age, activity level, chronicity, limb alignment, and size and location of the lesion. Diffuse cartilage injury in an older patient may be best treated with arthroplasty options. Young, active patients are not ready for a joint replacement, and may be candidates for cartilage repair procedures, in addition to procedures to correct limb malalignment and/or ligament injury.
The work at The Cartilage Research Lab allows for The University Orthopedics Cartilage Repair Center to offer state-of-the-art treatment of joint cartilage lesions. This includes both surgical techniques such as autologous cartilage implantation (ACI and MACI), osteochondral allograft transplantation, microfracture (along with adjunctive scaffolds) as well as the entire host of limb realignment and ligament stabilization.
Autologous Cartilage Implantation (ACI and MACI)
This procedure involves surgery to obtain a cartilage biopsy which is sent to a laboratory and the patient’s cartilage cells are grown. These cells are implanted during second surgery – reconstructing the cartilage defect.
Osteochondral Allograft Transplantation
This procedure involves replacing the damaged cartilage and underlying bone with a size-matched graft from an organ donor with healthy cartilage.
Meniscus Allograft Transplantation (MAT)
This procedure is performed in patients whose meniscus in no longer present. A size-matched meniscus graft from an organ donor is implanted arthroscopically.
Non-operative methods of treating cartilage injuries can include joint injections and physical therapy. Injections of corticosteroid, synthetic joint fluid, as well as platelet rich plasma (PRP) are all viable options. PRP is obtained by drawing blood from a patient and spinning it down to inject the growth factors into the diseased joint – and has recently been shown to have efficacy in early arthritic knees. Click here to learn more.
Cartilage Transplant Returns Brittney to Athletic Activity
Procedure by Dr. Brett Owens allows 22-year-old to once again run, exercise pain-free.
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