The knee is the joint that is between the bottom of the femur and the top of the tibia. The knee joint surfaces are lined with a layer of cartilage that is 1-2 mm thick. This cartilage allows the bones to glide smoothly against each other, reducing the friction while absorbing the pressure on the bone. Cartilage damage may occur due to a blow, minor traumas that may be recurrent, or due to growth imperfection
When this happens, the damaged cartilage moves from its original position alone or with a small piece of the underlying bone.
The cartilage may come out partially, creating a flap or completely leaving a portion that may move around the knee joint. Cartilage damage may cause symptoms such as pain, swelling, locking and sometimes joint weakness, which may restrict walking and other activities. Cartilage surgery is a procedure that aims to repair damaged cartilage to reduce knee pain, improve the function of the joint and prevent further damage. This procedure involves cartilage grafting or stimulates cartilage repair.
When is cartilage surgery indicated?
Cartilage surgery is normally indicated for people who have a single injury or lesions. The size of the lesion, the site and the status of the structures of the knee play a huge role in whether cartilage surgery is ideal. Surgery may also be indicated for older patients or for patients who have many lesions on one knee joint.
What does cartilage surgery entail?
Injured cartilage normally doesn’t heal on its own; therefore, cartilage surgery may be recommended to help repair, regenerate, and replace the cartilage. These procedures may be performed on any joint but are commonly performed on the knees. Depending on your condition/situation, as an orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Nell may perform the following:
- Knee cartilage repair This is a surgical procedure that involves the orthopaedic surgeon removing the frayed and tattered cartilage, as well as the remaining cartilage surface. This reduces friction in the joint, which in turn helps reduce knee pain, restore knee function and potentially slow down future cartilage degeneration.
- Knee cartilage regeneration During this procedure, the surgeon will encourage new cartilage growth by making small incisions or abrasions in the bone underneath the injured cartilage. The damaged bone may facilitate new cartilage cell growth.
- Knee cartilage replacement This is a surgical procedure that involves the use of a graft to replace the damaged cartilage. The graft may be from the patient or from a donor.
Dr. Dirk Nell
Dr. Dirk Nell's Note
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- Joint stiffness
- Exacerbated inflammatory reactions
- The mobilisation of the graft or the displacement of a fixed cartilage fragment may occur and require revision surgery.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) This is a device that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create images of the body.
- Arthroscopy This is a tube-like instrument that has a camera attached to it and is inserted into the joint to examine and repair it. It also helps determine the extent of the cartilage damage.