Chondral (Articular Cartilage) Defects

Articular, or hyaline, cartilage is the soft tissue lining the surface of the bones in a joint.  Cartilage helps the bones glide smoothly against each other and can withstand the weight of the body during activities such as running and jumping.  Articular cartilage does not have a direct blood supply, but rather receives nutrients diffused through joint fluid.  Once the cartilage is torn it usually does not heal well and can lead to degeneration of the articular surface, leading to development of osteoarthritis.

Damage to articular cartilage can happen at any age.  It can be damaged from trauma or degenerative changes over time.

Patients with articular cartilage damage experience symptoms such as joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and a decrease in range of motion of the knee.  Damaged cartilage may be replaced with healthy cartilage from an autograft (self) or allograft (donor).  This procedure is reserved for patients with focal areas of cartilage loss usually caused by sports or traumatic injuries. It is not indicated for patients who have advanced arthritis of knee.

Cartilage replacement can help relieve pain, restore normal function, and can delay or prevent the onset of arthritis. The goal of cartilage replacement is to stimulate growth of new cartilage and restore articular geometry.  There are different techniques used in cartilage replacement:

  • Microfracture
  • Drilling
  • Abrasion Arthroplasty
  • Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI)
  • Osteochondral Allograft Transplantation