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Understanding Cartilage Repair

Updated: Apr 21, 2020


Cartilage is a very strong, pliable, and slippery tissue that covers bones surfaces at joints. Cartilage has 3 main functions:

  • Reducing friction between a joint’s bones during joint flexing and extending

  • Providing a protective cushion between bones during high-impact activities, such as running and jumping

  • Aiding congruency of the joint

Smooth articular cartilage can measure anywhere from 1 mm to more than 6 mm thick and is bathed in a joint fluid, called synovial fluid, which further decreases friction and allows for pain-free range of motion.

When bones are not protected by cartilage, they can undergo degradation changes that make them weaker. Furthermore, they can also grow bone spurs, called osteophytes.

Injured cartilage typically has poor healing ability and does not heal on its own very, but repair options are available; surgical techniques that attempt to repair, regenerative treatments, and cartilage replacement.

Cartilage Repair

Surgery involves the removal of frayed and torn cartilage to smooth the remaining surface. This contouring of cartilage reduces joint friction, which in turn can:

  • Reduce knee pain

  • Restore knee function

The cartilage surgery is called chondroplasty which means to form or mold cartilage. Chondroplasty may be performed on articular cartilage, meniscus, or both.

Knee Debridement

During debridement the surgeon removes potential irritants to the joint, such as loose pieces of cartilage, and flushes the joint with a saline solution.

Knee Cartilage Regeneration

Cartilage has poor healing and repair abilities due to having poor blood supply. Micro fracture is a technique aimed to encourage new cartilage growth by making small cuts or abrasions in the bone underneath the injured cartilage. The hope is that the blood from the damaged bone will facilitate new cartilage cell growth.

Cartilage Replacement

Most knee cartilage replacement surgeries are known as osteochondral autograft transplantation or autologous chondral implantation. Osteochondral autograft transplantation uses cartilage from the patient.

A small round plug of healthy cartilage is taken. This procedure can be used to attempt repair a relatively small cartilage defect. Autologous chondrocyte implantation relies on newly grown cartilage cells.

First, the patient undergoes arthroscopic surgery to remove a small piece of healthy cartilage. That cartilage is cultured in a bio lab, allowing the attempt for new cartilage cells grow.Three to five weeks after the first surgery, a second surgery is performed to implant the newly grown cartilage cells into the affected knee joint.

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) and Stem Cell Treatment

A clinician treating cartilage repair and regeneration may use PRP or stem cells in the attempt of encouraging new cartilage cell growth. Both stem cells and platelets are involved in the body’s natural healing process and the healing and regeneration of damaged tissue. Stem cell and PRP treatements are generally considered safe, non-invasive and affective in a good number of cases.

Alternatives to Cartilage Repair

Not everyone is a good candidate for cartilage repair. Alternatives to cartilage repair can be:

  • Losing weight

  • Changing to non impact activities, like running to biking or swimmining

  • Stretching and strengthen muscles

  • Modifying footwear

  • Keeping warm

Note: individuals may find other non-surgical treatments also helpful. Some people find acupuncture or other alternative medicine treatments help reduce pain.


Don’t let pain, joint damage, sports injuries or arthritis get in the way of allowing you to do what you want. Schedule a consultation at Dynamic Osteopaths & Regenerative Medicine today, and let us treat your injury, provide pain relief and get you back to your full and active lifestyle. We have clinics operating out of Solihull (Henley-In-Arden), Birmingham (Harborne/Edgbaston) & Bromsgrove (Barnt Green).

Call us today 01564 330773


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