A knee cartilage defect is simply an area of cartilage in the knee that is damaged from trauma and other conditions, but not as a result of arthritis. Cartilage defects are most common in the knee joint and are commonly a result from serious knee injuries such as a
tear of the anterior cruciate ligament. It is very important to note that cartilage defect treatment options are different from treatment options for arthritis in the knee. An arthritis treatment option will not work for a knee cartilage defect.
Treatment Options for Knee Cartilage Defects
As with most medical issues, treatment options start out conservative and work up to more invasive treatment options if they are ineffective. Initial treatment options include medication, physical therapy and injections. If those do not work, other treatment options include:
- Microfracture – this treatment option involves helping the body to grow cartilage in the damaged area. This procedure involves penetrating the outer layer of the bone to expose where the bone marrow is located. These inner cells can then access the damaged area and promote cartilage growth and healing in the area. Microfracture is a fairly non-invasive surgery option that is safe and reliable and can be completed arthroscopically. The downside is that the new cartilage is not the same as regular knee cartilage and may not hold up as long. Patients must also undergo lengthy rehabilitation.
- Cartilage Transfer – this involves moving cartilage from healthy parts of the joint to damaged areas. Small plugs of cartilage are removed, with a portion of underlying bone, and transferred to the area of damage. The plugs are taken from areas of the joint where the cartilage surface is not needed. Cartilage transfers work best for people with small areas of cartilage damage in the knee.
- Cartilage Implantation – implantation is a fairly new procedure that is used to grow cartilage cells. The doctor removes cartilage cells and grows them in a cartilage cell laboratory for later use. Once enough cells have been grown they are implanted into the damaged part of the knee. The downside of this treatment methods is that multiple surgeries are required that can lead to a lengthy rehabilitation period of a year or more.