Cartilage is the smooth coating on the end of the bones that provides cushioning and support for comfortable, fluid movement. Cartilage damage occurs as a result of injury or degeneration and can lead to severe pain and arthritis. The cartilage eventually wears away and leaves the bone unprotected. Fortunately, there are now several techniques used to repair damaged cartilage and restore normal movement.
Cartilage repair is a relatively new field and long-term results are still not proven. These procedures aim to restore movement with the best possible tissue and to prevent further cartilage damage. Two common procedures used in cartilage repair include:
Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation. This procedure takes a sample of healthy cartilage and multiplies it in large quantities outside the body before being implanted back onto the bone. This newly grown cartilage coats the bone and provides regained support.
Osteochondral Autograft Transplant (OATS). This procedure takes healthy cartilage from another area of the bone that does not bear weight and transplants it to the damaged, weight-bearing area. This is used for smaller defects and involves filling holes with small transplant materials.