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Cartilage repair

When wear and tear, injury or disease damages the cartilage in your joints, it can cause pain and limit your lifestyle. But with cartilage repair and restoration treatments, it is possible to repair the damage and restore your cartilage. In fact, treatments and technologies may even eliminate the need for more invasive treatments, such as joint replacement. 

At Allina Health Orthopedics, your care team will help you explore a full range of treatment options for cartilage problems and provide a comprehensive therapeutic strategy to help you move smoothly and pain free. Additionally, services such as physical therapy, holistic techniques and more will help you regain your strength and flexibility.

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What is cartilage repair?

Cartilage repair includes a variety of surgical procedures to repair or replace cartilage damage, usually in the knee or hip. Cartilage repair and restoration treatment is appropriate for damage limited to one area. If cartilage damage is present throughout a joint or bone, other treatment methods are called for.

Types of cartilage repair

At Allina Health Orthopedics, cartilage repair or restoration treatments are individualized to your needs based on your lifestyle, activity level, age and health goals. The most common cartilage restoration procedures include: 

  • Arthroscopic Debridement/Chondroplasty: Cleaning damaged or loose unhealthy cartilage from the knee. 
  • Microfracture: Cleaning damaged cartilage and replacing with a “scar” cartilage by poking multiple holes in the bone to release stem cells. 
  • Minced juvenile cartilage: Used to fill holes in cartilage and augment microfracture technique. 
  • Matrix Associated Chondrocyte Implantation (MACI): Treats cartilage damage in two surgeries. The first procedure collects a small piece of cartilage from your knee and evaluates the cartilage injury. Your cartilage is processed in a lab to capture and produce chondrocytes, which are immature cartilage cells that grow into mature cartilage. Your cartilage is then grown on a 3-D mesh, which is then implanted in a second surgery.  This is particularly effective for cartilage under the knee cap. 
  • Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation: Treats cartilage damage in two surgeries. The first procedure collects a small piece of cartilage from your knee and evaluates the cartilage injury. Your cartilage is processed in a lab to capture and produce chondrocytes, which then are placed in the defect in a second surgery.  No mesh is used.   
  • Osteochondral Autograft Transplantation: Repairs injured area in your knee or hip by implanting cartilage/bone plugs collected from another part of your knee or hip.  
  • Osteochondral Allograft Transplantation: Repairs injured area in your knee or hip by replacing with fresh cartilage and bone plugs from a donor. 
  • Meniscal Transplant: Replaces damaged meniscus with donor meniscus to protect the cartilage. 
  • Osteotomy: Restores knee or hip alignment by cutting the bone and redirecting weight through the healthier part of your knee 

Cartilage repair is 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 repair can prevent further damage to cartilage and joint function. If performed early enough, it may also eliminate the need for replacement surgery by limiting the development of arthritis. It’s important to be assessed by a specialist in the early stages of hip or knee pain.

What you should know about cartilage repair

  • Treatment is customized based on your individual needs and lifestyle goals.  
  • Several advanced treatments are available that 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 occurred.

First published: 10/26/2020
Last reviewed: 10/26/2020