Cartilage allows a joint to glide smoothly and acts as a cushion between bony structures. Sports injuries can take a toll on the body’s cartilage, especially in high impact sports, like football. As we age, our cartilage is susceptible to wear and tear and damaged from injury. Depending on the severity of your injury, a cartilage transplant might be a good treatment option.
Cartilage transplants can help reduce pain and increase function by restoring the joint's healthy cartilage. A cartilage transplant may delay osteoarthritis, particularly in patients considered too young to undergo total joint replacement.
Cartilage repair surgery is a minimally invasive procedure done conveniently in outpatient facilities. The procedure generally takes a few hours, and you will need a friend or family member to drive you home after your surgery.
Your surgeon will take healthy cartilage (called a graft) from one of several sources and restore the cartilage in the damaged area. Cartilage sources include:
- Patient’s own knee: one part of a joint to repair another part of the joint. The graft is taken from a non-weight bearing part of the condyle, matched up to the damaged area, and then put into place.
- Previous sample from the patients own knee: a previous cartilage biopsy or sample taken is harvested, multiplied and cultivated in a lab for later reimplantation to the patients own knee.
- A donor graft: an allograft cartilage graft that has been screened and processed can be picked based on size Match and then shaped to fit the defect in the patients knee.
Patients experience the best outcomes when they understand and follow their recovery instructions to support cartilage growth.
After surgery protocols can include:
- Keep the joint elevated
- Take prescribed pain relievers and anti-inflammatories
- Control swelling with ice
- Keep incisions covered for the first few days
- Remaining non weight bearing
Most patients can return to some physical activity after six to eight weeks. Full recovery after cartilage repair surgery can take anywhere from four to eight months.
Physical therapy will help you recover and gain back strength and range of motion. A knee brace will be applied to restrict the knee's movement. There will also be weight bearing activity limits on your joint. If you're an athlete, it may be a six months before you're able to return to your usual activity.
Although most frequently used in the knee, cartilage transplantation may also benefit patients with early joint damage in the shoulder and elbow. Dr. Ronak Patel can help diagnose and treat cartilage injuries for both teens and adults.
Dr. Ronak Patel is a Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon offering a full range of care for all knee and shoulder problems with a special interest in complex knee disorders.