Cartilage Restoration- What is it, and is it for me?
Cartilage restoration is an array of treatments and procedures designed to restore the natural lining of joints. The tissue covering the bones of our joints is Hyaline Articular Cartilage (“cartilage”). Unfortunately, cartilage has little or no ability to heal itself, so when damaged by injury or “wear and tear,” the resulting damage is permanent. A joint with injured, worn or diseased cartilage will typically be painful, and can experience aching, sharp pains, catching and grinding. Once cartilage is damaged, it typically worsens with time, limiting a person’s physical and recreational activities.
Cartilage restoration consists of a series of treatments, processes, procedures and implants designed to heal, and in some cases, repair and restore damaged cartilage. These treatments can biologically heal or restore the damaged joint with a combination of non-surgical and surgical treatments. For example, a non-surgical treatment might include injection of hyaluronic acid or stem cells into the joint, whereas a surgical treatment might be Nanofracture combined with stem cell therapy or a cartilage graft. Other examples of cartilage restoration can include using orthobiologic scaffolds to patch the joint, a juvenile donor cartilage transplant, fresh-stored osteochondral grafts, cryopreserved osteochondral grafts, meniscal transplant, and the usage of growth factors and stem cells, among other therapies. Using biological therapies such as these can help to restore the joint to nearly normal, providing pain relief, enhanced function and hopefully, a long lasting solution.
In order for biological solutions such as these to restore cartilage, the joint must be properly aligned, stable and generally in a healthy state. Therefore, many patients undergoing cartilage restoration have ligament stabilization surgery or realignment in conjunction with cartilage restoration procedures to maximize their chances of success. Successful candidates for cartilage restoration tend to have “younger, healthier” bodies, not in terms of age, but rather health status. Dr. Davidson will conduct an individual assessment to determine whether you are a candidate for cartilage restoration–evaluating x-rays, scans, prior operative information, and conducting a physical exam. Treatment at Davidson Orthopedics is always customized to the individual, accounting for their unique situation. After gathering comprehensive information, together with Dr. Davidson you will develop and implement an optimal individual treatment plan. This plan may involve preliminary arthroscopic surgery to measure and assess the joint and help prepare detailed plans to restore the cartilage. If a joint’s mechanical environment, including alignment and stability, is normal or nearly normal, cartilage restoration is a viable option. However, for some patients, cartilage restoration is not possible. If the joint is badly arthritic, or has significant deformity, the solution may lie instead in what is called Joint Resurfacing, which uses metallic and synthetic components to allow patients with badly deformed or damaged joints to regain an active lifestyle and improve their functions. Read more about joint resurfacing here.