Cartilage Restoration

Cartilage Restoration

Cartilage Restoration is a subcategory of Orthopedic Sports Medicine and refers to a group of treatments options that are designed to treat injuries and wear of the cartilage within the joints. Cartilage damage is one of the main causes of joint pain and until recently the treatment options have very limited and ineffective. Recent advances have provided new and more effective treatment options. To know if you’re a candidate for cartilage restoration, we will need to determine if the cartilage is the source of your pain and other symptoms. We do this by taking a history, doing a physical exam and performing diagnostic testing. Through this process we can determine which of the available treatment options is best for you.

Successful treatment of damaged cartilage can result in increased mobility and decreased pain. It can also help delay the onset of arthritis. It is advised to consider cartilage restoration procedures prior to procedures such as total joint replacement.

Understanding Cartilage

Cartilage is a thin, smooth, white material that lines the end of bones in the joints throughout the body. When the cartilage is healthy, our bones easily glide back and forth. Because this glide is smooth and causes very low friction, movement is easy and painless. Cartilage does not contain blood vessels, meaning that it does not possess inherent healing potential. Therefore, when the cartilage begins to thin or is injured, it cannot heal without assistance. Arthritis is what occurs when cartilage thins down to the bone. In the case of younger people, cartilage is typically not worn thin but injured.

Because the cartilage has no direct blood supply to promote healing, injuries can be difficult to treat. The varying success rates of the different procedures depends on many factors including your body’s inherent healing capacity, the time given to heal, activities performed during the healing period, rehabilitation, amount of weight applied to the joint, and any previous injuries.

Who Benefits from Cartilage Restoration?

Those who would receive benefits will have cartilage damage or wear which has not yet progressed to full arthritis. If this sounds like you and you’d like options for treatment other than joint replacement, we recommend making an appointment to discuss your options with Dr. Jon Thompson.

What Procedures are Offered?

Treatments for Cartilage Restoration began gaining traction in the early 1990’s. We are always researching ways to improve these procedures for the best success rate that is the least invasive.

There are multiple procedures under the Cartilage Restoration umbrella, each of which offers variables that are dependent on the patient and their journey in treatment. Which one is appropriate for your condition depends on your age, activity level, whether the pain is caused by a defect or wear/degeneration, size of cartilage defect/degeneration in question, and more. It is imperative that you discuss your condition with a qualified and experienced physician, such as Jon Thompson, MD at Alpha Orthopedics, to conclude if you are a candidate and which procedure would offer the most benefit. Procedures offered include:

  • Microfracture
  • Enhanced Microfracture (with bio-cartilage or stem cells)
  • Allograft (De Novo)
  • OATS procedures
  • Osteotomies
  • Stem cells and PRP (Regenerative Medicine)


Recovery from Cartilage Restoration will vary widely from person to person. Typically, a full year is given to assess the success of the treatment and recovery. Recovery will be a slow process but those that follow instruction given by their physician will have the highest chance of treatment success. It is important that during the recovery period you are gentle on your knee in every way. This includes limiting rehabilitation activities that involve weight bearing and impact. There are some that may feel they can resume their active lifestyle in under a year, but many need additional time to heal to their best ability for longstanding success.

As a general recovery outline, the first few weeks after treatment, you should have crutches assist your walking and keep weight on your leg to an absolute minimum. Our team recommends keeping an eye on swelling, limiting daily activities, and avoiding increased activities that includes workouts and recreation. We will carefully watch as your healing progresses and implement changes to activity when needed.

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