A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Knee pain? Reasons to consider knee cartilage restoration

A couple goes hiking over rough terrain.

Knee cartilage restoration involves removing damaged cartilage and replacing it with healthy tissue. In some cases, removing damaged tissue will stimulate growth of new cartilage.

If your sore knee is causing you to cut back on favorite activities, you might be a candidate for knee cartilage restoration.

Knee cartilage restoration involves removing damaged cartilage and replacing it with healthy tissue. In some cases, removing damaged tissue will stimulate growth of new cartilage. When the new growth is not adequate, orthopedic surgeons can use cartilage from another part of your joint to help with regeneration. Donor cartilage is similarly used for transplant.

Orthopedic surgeons will choose knee cartilage restoration over total joint replacement when there is only localized damage, often resulting from an injury. “If you think of it like a pothole in the road, that is an injury which may be amendable to repair,” said Darren Corteen, orthopedic surgeon with Marshfield Clinic Health System.

Patients with extensive damage to the bone and joint are better suited to a total knee replacement.

Knee cartilage restoration can benefit any age

When considering knee health and a lifetime of use, surgeons encourage younger patients to hold off on total replacements as long as possible. Knee cartilage restoration is a good alternative. “We prefer doing restorative procedures with younger patients,” Corteen said. “If we put in a prosthesis, more than likely in their lifetime they are going to wear it out and need a revision procedure.”

That doesn’t exclude older patients from being considered for a cartilage restoration. Overall condition of the joint is the determining factor. “Someone can be in their 40’s or 50’s, but if the cartilage and other structures are intact age is not a limiting factor,” Corteen said.

Following the surgery, motion is maintained through physical therapy so the joint doesn’t become stiff. Research shows that movement also is good for cartilage health. Recovery includes no weight-bearing activities for one to two months or longer. So, you may need to use assistive devices like crutches while it is healing.

You can get back to higher-level activities in about nine to 12 months, and after a year, you can resume your normal lifestyle.

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