What is an Articular Cartilage Defect?
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 has less capacity to repair itself. Once the cartilage is torn it will not heal easily and can lead to degeneration of the articular surface, leading to development of osteoarthritis.
Causes of Articular Cartilage Defects
The damage in articular cartilage can affect people of all ages. It can be damaged by trauma such as accidents, mechanical injury such as a fall, or from degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) occurring in older people.
Symptoms of Articular Cartilage Defects
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 and the procedure is known as cartilage replacement. It is a surgical procedure performed to replace the worn-out cartilage and is usually performed to treat patients with small areas of cartilage damage usually caused by sports or traumatic injuries. It is not indicated for those patients who have advanced arthritis of knee.
Treatment of Articular Cartilage Defects
Cartilage replacement helps relieve pain, 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
Microfracture is a surgical technique used to repair articular cartilage damage in the knee called chondral defects. Articular cartilage is a complex avascular (no blood supply) tissue which consists of cells called chondrocytes suspended in a collagenous matrix. It appears as a smooth, shiny, white tissue at the ends of the bones which come in contact with each other to form a joint.