Your knee is one of the largest weight bearing joints. It withstands enormous pressure each day as we go about our activities from walking to running to high intensity sports.
Our knees can handle this pressure thanks to the cartilage in our knee joints. It acts as the shock absorber and allows our bones to move smoothly against one another. This intensity and duration of work on our cartilage can lead to injury.
Cartilage injury in the knee causes joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and decreased range of motion in the knee joint. Because our cartilage does not have a direct blood supply, it cannot repair or heal itself.
Worn or damaged cartilage needs to be replaced with healthy cartilage to avoid the development of arthritis. Thankfully, there are several cutting edge treatments available for cartilage restoration.
Microfracture: Several holes are created in the injured joint surface, which stimulates a new blood supply. Blood supply brings needed oxygen and a healing response to grow new cartilage.
Drilling: This method is similar to microfracture in that holes are created in the injured joint surface to create blood supply and stimulate new cartilage growth.
Abrasion Arthroplasty: Using an arthroscope, the damaged cartilage is removed using a high-speed metal-like instrument.
Osteochondral Autograft Transplantation: Although it is a mouthful to say, this procedure is used for smaller cartilage defects. Healthy cartilage tissue is grafted from within the body and transferred to the injured joint.
Osteochondral Allograft Transplantation: This procedure is typically recommended for larger cartilage damage. It differs from Osteochondral Autograft because the healthy cartilage is grafted from a donor and then transferred to the injured joint of the patient.
Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation: Using this method, a piece of healthy cartilage from another site within the patient is removed using an arthroscopic procedure. The cartilage is then cultured in a laboratory. Cultured cells are then implanted into the damaged part of the joint through open surgery.
The goal with all of these procedures is to stimulate growth of new cartilage within the knee and relieve pain, restore function, and help prevent the onset of arthritis. Healthy knee cartilage means you can continue those everyday activities from walking to running to high intensity sports knowing that your knee can withstand the pressure.
Dr. Kai Mithoefer is board certified in both Orthopedic surgery and Orthopedic sports medicine, fellowship trained in Orthopedic Trauma at Harvard and the prestigious Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery fellowship at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. Dr. Mithoefer is an internationally recognized specialist for joint preservation, has published more than 100 scientific articles and book chapters and is a frequent speaker at national and international orthopedic meetings.