Many instances of joint pain and dysfunction are caused by damage to or deterioration of cartilage. This strong, fibrous tissue serves several functions throughout the body, depending on its subtype. When it is not able to function properly, you may need to consider cartilage restoration. GPOA has a team of orthopedic specialists trained in the latest and most effective cartilage treatments.
What Is Cartilage?
Made up of specialized cells called chondrocytes. These produce a chemical matrix consisting largely of collagen, elastin, and proteoglycan. There are no blood vessels within cartilage, so it takes the body a long time to produce and repair it. There are three main types of cartilage.
Elastic cartilage is the softest and most flexible form. It is found in the ears, epiglottis, and larynx.
Fibrocartilage is the least flexible form of cartilage. It is characterized by large bundles of type 1 collagen fibers. It is primarily found between vertebrae in the spine and at the insertion point of tendons and ligaments. It also makes up intra-articular cartilage in several joints.
Hyaline cartilage is abundant throughout the body. It sits between the other two inflexibility. It is characterized by a smooth and shiny appearance. Hyaline cartilage is found in the nose, windpipe, and many of the body’s joints.
Articular cartilage is not a type of cartilage, but rather refers to its location. It is found in your joints, where it covers bone surfaces where they come together or articulate. It serves to allow smooth movement and absorb the shock produced through movement. The qualities of hyaline cartilage make it ideal for this purpose.
Why Does Cartilage Break Down?
Cartilage is incredibly strong and flexible, but it can be damaged in a number of ways. Some of the most common causes include:
- Trauma or injury to a joint
- Degenerative diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis
- Wear and tear that causes osteoarthritis
When cartilage is damaged or worn, it may expose the ends of the bone and lead to increased joint friction. In those instances, restoration can be used to preserve function.
What Is Cartilage Restoration?
Your joints rely on cartilage to facilitate movement that is smooth and pain-free. When cartilage is damaged, it can cause pain and inflammation. This often leads to a limited range of motion and a decreased ability to perform normal daily functions.
Unfortunately, once cartilage is damaged, it does not heal well on its own. When a joint is able to regrow new cartilage, it is often rough and bumpy and less able to reduce friction within the joint. Increased friction leads to additional pain and discomfort. Surgical options that are designed to repair, regenerate, or restore the condition of the cartilage in your knee are more effective.
Cartilage Restoration involves resurfacing, realigning, and stabilizing an affected joint. It is an effective method to help you avoid a joint replacement. It is most commonly used in younger patients who have damage that is isolated to a small area. This is often the result of trauma. However, some people develop degenerative arthritis in only one or a very limited number of joints.
How Is Cartilage Restoration Performed?
There are several methods that can be used to facilitate cartilage restoration. The best choice for you will be based on the cause of your damage, the condition of your surrounding joint, and your overall medical history.
Although your specific treatment will be tailored to your condition, there are two common procedures that can help restore the cartilage in your joints.
ACI (Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation)
For many patients, the best option will be Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation. This involves two separate procedures. During the first one, our surgeons will harvest healthy cartilage cells from you. These will then be cultured and grown outside of your body to be implanted into the damaged joint during your second procedure.
ACI is limited to use on hyaline cartilage in otherwise healthy joints. It has a long history of successful use. Most patients will experience a reduction or elimination of joint pain once fully healed. Many resume or expand their activities as well.
In cases where cartilage wear has led to extensive damage, osteochondral transplants or grafts can be performed. These take cartilage and a small section of bone, from either another part of your body or a donor, and then transplant it into the affected joint.
Who Is A Good Candidate For Treatment?
The ideal candidate for cartilage restoration has limited damage to a single joint. They are most often younger patients, under the age of 50, and do not have other degenerative disorders that might interfere with the healing process.
There are no nerves within your cartilage, so it does not cause pain directly. Instead, pain is caused by friction within the joint where bones rub together. In cases where the pain is chronic or severe, cartilage restoration can help you achieve less pain and more range of motion.
Restoration of cartilage is recommended when there is damage to the tissue that causes chronic or severe pain or swelling. It is often a good choice if you have damage that is limited to one or two joints. Some people choose restoration as an alternative to joint replacement surgery.
Are You Ready To Learn More?
Cartilage repair and restoration is an effective treatment option that can eliminate pain and restore function in your joints allowing you to resume activities and improve overall quality of life. Contact GPOA today to schedule your consultation with one of our orthopedic specialists serving the Pittsburgh area.