What is Knee Articular Cartilage Damage?
Articular cartilage is considered a critical structure within the knee joint that allows the bones to glide over each other in a fluid, pain-free motion. The smooth, white substance lining the ends of each bone can break down over time, leaving the bone exposed, from an injury or the natural aging process. When this occurs, patients begin to feel the painful effects of osteoarthritis. Since cartilage cannot heal on its own, certain patients may need to undergo a surgical osteoarthritis knee treatment aimed at joint preservation. Vail, Aspen, Colorado Springs and Denver, Colorado area orthopedic knee surgeon, Dr. Matthew Provencher specializes in a variety of knee replacement alternatives to help prevent further damage to articular cartilage within the joint.
What are Knee Replacement Alternatives?
Orthopedic surgeons and researchers have greatly advanced the area of knee replacement alternatives over time. These advancements have consistently been proven to be effective in prolonging or eliminating the need for total knee replacement surgery. Since replacement procedures are not recommended in younger, active patients, surgical osteoarthritis knee treatments are gaining popularity and allowing patients to have the active lifestyles they had prior to injury.
What are Knee Osteoarthritis Treatment Options?
A common osteoarthritis knee treatment performed by Dr. Provencher is an arthroscopic approach aimed at removing all damaged areas within the joint. Once the injured cartilage and/or bone spurs are removed, and scar tissue is released, the majority of patients will experience significant alleviation of their knee stiffness and pain.
Microfracture is an effective knee replacement alternative used to treat focal cartilage defects, small, well-defined areas where the cartilage has been worn down to bare bone. Microfracture is an arthroscopic procedure that requires Dr. Provencher to create holes in the damaged area. The creation of these “microfractures” allows bone marrow and stem cells to flow out, form a clot and stimulate new growth of fibrocartilage. The fibrocartilage covers the exposed bone and results in decreased knee pain and stiffness.
An OATs procedure, either an osteochondral autograft transfer or osteochondral allograft transplantation, involves small plugs of healthy cartilage and bones to be transferred to the damaged area of the patient’s knee. The plugs can be harvested from either the patient (autograft) or from a donor (allograft).
In certain patients, Dr. Provencher may recommend a knee osteotomy. A knee osteotomy is used to change the shape (alignment) of the joint and transfer weight from a damaged area to a more anatomically normal area of the joint. This procedure leads to reduced pain and stiffness while still allowing for high levels of activity.