Do You Need a Cartilage Injury Surgery?

Cartilage injury surgery

Do You Need a Cartilage Injury Surgery?

You might need cartilage restoration surgery if you have severely damaged your articular cartilage, whether that is from an injury or the typical wear and tear that might occur overtime. That being said, what is articular cartilage? Well, articular cartilage is the white, smooth tissue that covers each end of the bones where they connect to other bones to create joints. When that cartilage is healthy, your joints will be easy to move. Basically, because there are no issues with the cartilage, that allows the bones to easily glide over each other without getting caught on anything. However, if your cartilage becomes injured, you will require surgery because it doesn’t do a very good job of healing itself.

Why Do People Need Cartilage Restoration Surgery?

As mentioned earlier, people require cartilage restoration surgery when their cartilage becomes damaged, whether it’s due to natural causes or injury. Getting the surgery is not only good because it will relieve pain, but it will also improve the range of motion and help delay and even prevent arthritis. 

Although there are many ways that a person can injure their cartilage, one common type of cartilage injury is to the knee. When you experience trauma to your knee, you can actually damage the articular cartilage which lines your knee joint. Other common causes of cartilage injuries are due to direct blows to the joint, general wear and tear, typically over a 20-year period, and living a sedentary life where your joints don’t get time to move around on a regular basis. Oftentimes, patients who have injured their cartilage will experience inflammation, stiffness, pain, limited range of motion, or a locking sensation.

Unfortunately, doctors cannot simply rely on an X-ray to diagnose a cartilage injury because cartilage will not show up on an X-ray. However, an MRI can usually identify cartilage injuries. Sometimes, your doctor might even use an arthroscopy, which allows them to see inside the joint, to find the issue. 

What Is Surgery Like?

Typically, there are four types of surgery options that your doctor will consider.

  • Autologous chondrocyte implantation. During this type of surgery, the doctor will remove a tiny piece of your cartilage. Then, it is taken to a lab where the cartilage grows and produces more cells. Approximately one to three months later, your surgeon will implant these new, lab-grown cartilage cells back into your injured joint, allowing them to grow into healthy, new tissue.  
  • Marrow stimulation. In this type of surgery, the surgeon will drill small holes underneath the damaged cartilage. These holes are called micro-fractures. They do this to expose the blood vessels inside of the bone so that they will start to clot. As a result of the blood clots, the cartilage will receive the signal that it needs to start producing new, healthy cartilage. This type of surgery is effective; however, this new cartilage is usually less supple than the original cartilage. This means that the patient will most likely need surgery again in the future because the cartilage will have an easier time wearing away over time. 
  • Mosaicplasty. This kind of surgery is not meant for patients who have damage everywhere, like osteoarthritis. The surgeon will take the undamaged cartilage from a healthy area of your body and move it to the damaged area. Generally, this type of surgery is only used when the damaged cartilage is in an isolated area, usually only 10–20 millimeters. Typically, mosaicplasty is used for patients who are under 50 years old who damaged their cartilage due to an accident. 
  • Debridement. During this type of surgery, the surgeon will smooth down the damaged cartilage to help prevent any irritation or rubbing. Typically, the surgeon will use a small instrument like a mechanical shaver to do this surgery. 

Possible Risks

Like any type of surgery, cartilage injury surgery does have some possible risks that you should consider. Because cartilage restoration surgery focuses on your joints, there isn’t a very high risk of the surgeon accidentally damaging a major organ or blood vessel. On the other hand, there is a slight risk of damaging the surrounding areas like nerves and vessels close to the cartilage. 

What Is The Recovery Process Like?

After knee cartilage surgery, you will want to keep your knee elevated, iced, and well rested. For the first few days, cartilage repair surgery recovery is pretty similar to knee surgery recovery. After surgery, you should be prepared to use crutches for about six weeks to let your cartilage heal. Generally, patients start to go back to their usual physical activities six to eight weeks after surgery. However, it takes about three to six months to make a full recovery from cartilage repair surgery.

Cartilage Restoration Surgery at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants

Here, at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, we recognize how hard it is to not be able to do your usually, everyday activities due to your cartilage injury. That being said, our highly-qualified team will be there for you every step of the way as you recover from surgery. 

Contact us today if you are recovering from cartilage restoration surgery!