Articular cartilage is the smooth, shiny, white tissue covering the ends of bones that form a joint. Articular cartilage reduces friction when bones glide over each other, making the movements smooth and painless. It also acts as a shock-absorber to help prevent traumatic injuries to the bones. When cartilage is damaged, it can cause painful movements and limited joint mobility and eventually progress to osteoarthritis.
Cartilage damage can occur from normal wear and tear of the body’s joints as we age as well as from injury or other disease conditions. Because of its avascular nature (absence of blood supply), cartilage cannot repair itself and therefore surgical treatment is usually required to restore cartilage function and prevent progression of the damage into arthritis.
Young adults with cartilage injury are ideal candidates for cartilage restoration surgery because these methods help prevent the progression of damage into osteoarthritis.
The most common joint requiring cartilage restoration is the knee joint and other joints include the shoulder and ankle joints.
Damaged cartilage can be treated by two different techniques – repair and regeneration. Repair technique involves replacing damaged cartilage with new cells and extracellular matrix that stimulates healing of the injured cartilage. Regeneration involves replacing the injured cartilage with a new articulating surface that functionally simulates the growth of original cartilage.
Most cartilage restoration procedures can be performed arthroscopically, a minimally invasive surgery using arthroscope, a small flexible tube with a light and video camera at the end that enables to view inside the joints and perform surgery.
During arthroscopy, a few small puncture incisions are made around the joint. In certain cases, open surgery may be required to access the affected area requiring longer incisions. Your surgeon will discuss the best surgical options for your child’s condition.
The surgical procedures for cartilage restoration include: