Articular cartilage is a tough hyaline cartilage that covers the ends of the bones that make up the knee joint. Knee injuries can cause damage to the articular cartilage (full or partial thickness) and this damage does not spontaneously heal. Loose flaps of cartilage can irritate the joint and these can be dealt with at the time of keyhole surgery by shaving the flaps or using a radiofrequency device to ablate the flaps and smooth the remaining cartilage (chondroplasty) often resulting in significant improvement in symptoms.
Typically, however, some symptoms remain if the cartilage defect is full thickness (like a crater). The risk of subsequent arthritic changes is also increased, and so cartilage repair techniques are often employed to tresat such cartilage injuries.
Articular Cartilage Injury Treatment
Specific treatment options are available to treat such cartilage defects. Some, such as microfracture, stimulate repair with a less tough cartilage (fibrocartilage) but one that can sucessfully relieve symptoms. Other techniques, such as osteochondral autologous transfer surgery (OATS) aim to transplant cartilage from an uninjured and non-weightbearing part of the joint to an injured weight-bearing part. Other techniques, such as autologous cartilage implantation (ACI) try to produce a cartilage similar to the original hyaline articular cartilage by using a tissue laboratory to grow cartilage from a very small piece of cartilage taken from the injured knee.