Cartilage Restoration Surgery | MedStar Health

Cartilage restoration surgeries are options to grow healthy, new cartilage in areas that have been injured due to sports-related injuries or knee arthritis. Our sports medicine specialists have experience in the most innovative surgical procedures for the best possible outcomes.

Why is surgery performed?

Anyone who plays sports can experience an injury that damages cartilage, which is the tissue that coats the ends of the bones in the joints to allow smooth motion. Athletes who overuse their knees can also cause cartilage to wear away, which may lead to sports-related knee pain or articular cartilage damage. When non-surgical treatment is not sufficient to treat your injury, you can benefit from a variety of surgical procedures, including cartilage restoration surgery.

What does surgery involve?

The type of Cartilage Restoration Surgery depends on the location, size, and character of the cartilage defect. Your options range from small procedures to treat small defects to larger, more complex procedures involving cartilage transplant surgery. Our cartilage specialists take time to look at your entire scenario to address your cartilage problem as well as the cause of your defect. There may be other procedures involved to help correct issues and/or protect the new cartilage.

We offer the following cartilage restoration surgeries:

  • Microfracture – Your surgeon uses an arthroscope (a camera inserted into the joint) and specialized tools to create small holes in the bone that allows the body to grow some new cartilage. This can be useful for small defects.
  • Osteochondral transfer system (OATS) procedure – Your surgeon will take healthy cartilage from one area of your knee and use it to replace damaged cartilage. OATS works well when you have smaller amounts of injured cartilage.
  • Osteochondral allograft – Your surgeon will take healthy cartilage from a deceased organ donor and use it to replace damaged cartilage in your knee. This procedure works well when you have a large amount of damaged cartilage and you cannot use your own tissue to replace it.
  • Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) – The first step in this procedure is arthroscopic surgery to remove healthy cartilage cells and tissue from the knee area. Next, we grow the healthy sample in the lab for about a month. Then, we take the new sample of healthy cartilage cells and implant them into the damaged cartilage using traditional open surgery. This procedure uses your own tissue and can address large cartilage defects.

What does recovery involve?

Recovery from cartilage restoration surgery involves both time and rehabilitation. You may need to wear a protective brace and use crutches immediately following surgery. Then, you will likely need to do physical therapy to restore your strength and range of motion. Your sports medicine surgeon will discuss the specific details of your recovery with you before your surgery so you know what to expect.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Our goal is for you to experience the following benefits after having cartilage restoration surgery:

  • Joint pain relief
  • Restored range of motion in the affected joint
  • Improved joint strength
  • Ability to return to normal activities