Nonsurgical Cartilage Repair – Is It Advisable?

Nonsurgical Cartilage Repair – Is It Advisable?

A very common cause of joint pain is damage to the articular cartilage. Articular cartilage works as a “shock absorber.” When it becomes damaged or deteriorates, it limits normal motion and can cause l pain. If untreated, it can worsen and eventually require joint replacement surgery. Most commonly implicated joint is the knee.


When the cartilage in your joint is damaged, symptoms include pain, swelling, decreased range of motion, and deformity. There may also be catching, locking, or clicking in the affected joint. If the trauma is not acute, it may be a more insidious degenerative process, such as osteoarthritis. There is more pain, swelling, deformity, decreased range of motion.


Regeneration of the cartilage in the knee joint after an injury can be very slow and usually does not fully occur as the knee is constantly in use and bearing the body weight. Despite the normal healing, physical therapy, medications, and steroid injections, the knee pain can persist.

There are multiple kinds of cartilage repair procedures, including autologous chondrocyte transplantation
If the knee is otherwise healthy, cartilage repair and regeneration is a treatment option. but not if there is osteoarthritis. Common indications include:

  • Injury/trauma
  • Overuse
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Hormonal disorders that affect bone and joint development.


Patients need to get an MRI to assess the severity and extent of cartilage damage before cartilage repair is performed. These procedures are typically performed arthroscopically, which involves making small incisions around your joint and entering an arthroscope, to view the inside of the joint space. Some procedures may require open incisions for better access to the area.

Arthroscopic wounds heal faster than that if traditional surgery.


It is very important to identify early and treat the articular cartilage damage If you repair the damaged cartilage before it completely wears out, the process of arthritic damage can be reversed and the joint preserved.


There are multiple kinds of cartilage repair procedures, including autologous chondrocyte transplantation,
cell-based cartilage resurfacing, meniscus transplant, microfracture, and osteochondral allograft or autograft.


The patient is typically on crutches for six to eight weeks after cartilage repair, and it can several months to make a full recovery. In some cases, patients require a continuous passive motion machine (CPM).


Another nonsurgical approach that will likely become available in the future is mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), which has been used in a research setting to repair and regenerate cartilage damage.  These cells are found in multiple human adult tissues including bone marrow and adipose tissues. They can differentiate into bone, cartilage, muscle, and adipose tissue. Early human trials have shown promising results but more compelling evidence needs to accumulate before it can become clinically available.


Overall, there are several nonsurgical options for joint cartilage repair and they have a wide range of benefits over conventional open surgical procedures. But if the underlying pathology is severe or has worsened due to incomplete track of timely management, one has to resort to surgical options such total joint replacement.

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