Articular or hyaline cartilage is the tissue lining the surface of the two bones in the knee joint. Cartilage helps the bones move 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 to it, so it has less capacity to repair itself. Once the cartilage is torn, it won’t heal easily and can lead to degeneration of the articular surface, which can in turn lead to development of osteoarthritis.
The damage in articular cartilage can affect people of all ages. It can be damaged by trauma from an accident or a mechanical injury from a fall, or from degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) that often occurs in older people.
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 needs to be replaced with healthy cartilage; the procedure is known as cartilage replacement. This surgical procedure to replace the worn-out cartilage is usually performed on patients who have limited areas of cartilage damage, usually caused by sports or traumatic injuries. It is not recommended for those patients who have advanced arthritis of the knee.
Cartilage replacement helps relieve pain and restore normal function, and can delay or prevent the onset of arthritis. The goal of cartilage replacement procedures is to stimulate growth of new hyaline cartilage. Various arthroscopic procedures involved in cartilage replacement include:
- Abrasion Arthroplasty
- Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI)
- Osteochondral Autograft Transplantation