Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects articular cartilage. The reason why there is currently no cure for osteoarthritis is that the damaged articular cartilage is unable to repair itself. Articular cartilage transplants, and cartilage cell implants are currently being used and developed to address this issue. The goals of these procedures are to restore the damaged joint surface and stop cartilage degeneration. The hope is that complete, pain-free range of motion can be achieved. Unfortunately, these procedures are relatively new and much of this work is still in the research phase so these techniques may not be readily available to the general population. People who are candidates for these surgeries must meet strict criteria. This section provides a very brief overview of each of these two surgical techniques. More detailed information about each procedure, its risks and benefits, can be obtained from your doctor or orthopaedic surgeon.
Cartilage Cell Implants
Also known as autologous chondrocyte implantation, this technique aims to resurface the osteoarthritic knee with “normal” articular cartilage. Cartilage cells (chondrocytes) are harvested from another part of the knee that has normal, healthy cartilage. Usually, the site of harvest is from a part of the knee that is subject to minimal loading or weight-bearing stresses. The harvested cells are stimulated to grow and multiply in a laboratory. They are then implanted into the same knee at the site where the damaged articular cartilage is present. Unlike with Marrow Stimulation, the implanted cells develop into tissue that more closely resembles the original articular cartilage. The majority of patients report improvement in their symptoms and are actually able to return to sports and their usual activities.
Who is a good candidate for cartilage cell implant surgery?
Candidates for this procedure include patients with persistent pain with a localized area of cartilage loss. Often that cartilage loss is due to injury or trauma. People who suffer from advanced osteoarthritis involving a significant area of cartilage damage, are not candidates for this procedure. After cartilage cell implantation, there is a long rehabilitation and recovery period of 9-12 months.
Cartilage transplantation uses grafts of cartilage and bone that are taken from the patient or from a donor cadaver. The grafts are harvested from a non-weight bearing part of the donor knee which has a supply of healthy articular cartilage. They are then transplanted into the patient’s knee at the site of articular damage. Candidates for cartilage transplantation surgery include patients with a small, localized are of cartilage damage. Patients who have failed marrow stimulation or cartilage cell implantation surgery may also benefit from transplantation.
Although cartilage transplantation surgery is relatively new, early evidence shows that the results of this procedure are at least as good, if not better than Marrow Stimulation plication rates are low. As with any surgical procedure, there is a small risk of infection. Additionally, because donor cartilage may be used, there is some risk of disease transmission or graft rejection.
To read more about osteoarthritis of the knee please visit the links section. Links have been provided to other websites as well as online medical journals. Knee injury topics can also be accessed.