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Cartilage restoration

Living with a painful knee, hip or shoulder can limit your lifestyle—from running errands to participating in your favorite sport or outdoor activity, it’s all affected. But you don’t need to live with it and it doesn’t always mean you’ll need replacement surgery.

Pain or stiffness in a hip, knee or shoulder is sometimes caused by damaged joint cartilage, often from injury or trauma. It is possible to repair cartilage damage that is limited to a specific area with cartilage restoration treatments. However, cartilage restoration techniques are not appropriate to treat osteoarthritis or other forms of arthritis.   


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What it is

Cartilage restoration comprises a variety of surgical treatment options to repair cartilage damage, usually in the knee, hip or shoulder. Cartilage restoration treatment is for damage limited to one area. It is not a treatment option for cartilage damage that’s present throughout a joint or bone due to osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

All cartilage restoration treatments are individualized to your needs. Your treatment will specifically address the location, type and characteristics of your injury. Additionally, treatment will also be developed based on your personal goals for your lifestyle, activity level and age. 

Cartilage restoration services include:

Arthroscopic Debridement

  • Meniscal Transplant

    Replaces damaged meniscus with donor cartilage


  • Restores knee or hip alignment

Articulated Cartilage Repair or Transplantation

  • Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation
    Treats cartilage damage in two surgeries. The first procedure collects a small piece of cartilage from your knee. Your cartilage is processed in a lab to capture and produce chondrocytes, which are cells that produce cartilage. The implantation of the chondrocytes is the second surgical procedure. 
  • Matrix Associated Chondrocyte Implantation (MACI)

    Similar to autologous chondrocyte implantation, MACI grows chondrocytes on a 3-D mesh, which is then implanted.

  • Microfracture

    Removes damaged and unstable cartilage through several small holes drilled into the bone at areas of cartilage loss to regrow new cartilage.

  • Osteochondral Autograft Transfer

    Repairs injured area in your knee or hip by implanting bone and cartilage collected from another part of your knee or hip.

  • Osteochondral Allograft

    Repairs injured area in your knee or hip with donor bone and cartilage

Good for treating

  • Individuals of any age who are experiencing ongoing/chronic or acute joint pain, due to injury or trauma, in the hip or knee
  • Joint conditions before arthritis fully develops
  • Joint pain or damage due to traumatic injuries
  • Focal chondral defects
  • People who had their meniscus removed and are now experiencing pain
  • Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD or OD)

Good for preventing

Cartilage restoration may prevent further damage and, if performed early enough, may also eliminate the need for replacement surgery. It’s important to be assessed by a specialist in the early stages of hip or knee pain.

Good to know

  • Treatment is customized based on your individual needs and lifestyle goals.
  • Several advanced treatments are available that may eliminate the need for joint replacement surgery.
  • Many cartilage restoration treatments are outpatient procedures. In some cases, an overnight stay in the hospital may be needed.
  • Very favorable outcomes with individuals returning to the activity level and lifestyle before injury may be expected.

Reviewed by: Ryan Fader, MD, orthopedic surgeon; L. Pearce McCarty III, MD, orthopedic surgeon

First published: 6/1/2018

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Only these primary care appointments can be scheduled online. For all other appointments or with any questions, call 1-888-425-5462.