Cartilage is a dense connective tissue found in the knee where it provides a protective surface. It is composed of cells called chondrocytes. Unlike other tissues, articular cartilage does not contain blood vessels and therefore has poor regenerative qualities. Injury to the articular cartilage of the knee can be the result of trauma, meniscal knee surgery where a portion or all the mensicus was removed and other sources. Osteoarthrits is a common condition of cartilage failure that results in limited range of motion, possible bone damage and pain.
Until recetnly the only treatment options included non-surgical treatments and knee cartilage surgery. Short of total knee replacement sugery,the most common knee cartilage surgery was microfracture.
Microfracture is an arthroscopic knee surgerywhere the calcified cartilage is removed and small fractures are created in the bone with an surgical pic. There are a series of limiations to this procedure and it has been found to be less effective in patients who are older, overweight and have cartilage damage larger the 2.5cm. Apart from the knee surgery pain, the most significant drawback is the need to be on crutches for 4-6 weeks in addition to daily physical therapy.
The newest and less invasive option for the treatment of damaged knee cartilage is the use of autologous mesenchymal stem cell. A published case report demonstrated successful cartilage growth in human knees using this stem cell therapy. Unlike knee cartilage sugery,this procedure is performed using a small needle that is directed under x-ray into the affected area. Recovery time is significantly different in that after 5-7 days the patient is able to bear weight on the affected limb without crutches. Specifcs regarding this technique and the use of autologous stem cell is available at regenexx.com