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 5 Fascinating Facts About Cartilage Restoration

 5 Fascinating Facts About Cartilage Restoration

When it comes to joint health and function, cartilage plays a starring role, protecting bony surfaces while helping your joints move smoothly and without pain. Unfortunately, cartilage damage isn’t uncommon, especially if you’re older, lead a very active life, or you’re overweight or obese.

At Orange Orthopaedic Associates, board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon James M. Lee Jr., MD, uses advanced cartilage restoration techniques to repair cartilage and support healthy joints. 

Here, learn five interesting facts about cartilage and the techniques Dr. Lee uses to restore damaged tissue.

Cartilage doesn’t have a blood supply

Unlike other tissue in your body, joint cartilage (or articular cartilage) doesn’t have its own blood supply. Instead, it absorbs the nutrients it needs from the fluids that surround it.

Ample blood supply is necessary for tissue healing and regeneration. A lack of blood supply means it’s almost impossible for cartilage to repair itself without at least some outside assistance through injections or other medical treatment, including the restoration techniques we provide.

Cartilage restoration may help you avoid joint replacement surgery

Cartilage damage happens primarily for three reasons: 

For years, joint replacement surgery was the only option for joints with significant cartilage damage.

Today, cartilage restoration techniques provide another option. These techniques use a minimally invasive approach to promote cartilage health or to replace cartilage damaged by trauma or wear-and-tear. 

Prompt treatment helps many of our patients postpone or even avoid invasive joint replacement surgery and the long recovery period that follows.

Some restoration techniques involve tiny fractures

It might seem counterintuitive, but one effective type of cartilage restoration involves creating more damage to the cartilage bed. Called microfracture, this approach involves making a series of tiny breaks or fractures in the bone underneath the cartilage layer.

These tiny microfractures spur natural healing, encouraging your body to produce new cartilage on the joint surface. The cartilage that forms is usually a different type of cartilage, which, while durable, isn’t as strong as the natural cartilage that lines healthy joints. 

Still, microfracture can be an effective choice for smaller lesions.

Cartilage grafts can be grown in a lab

Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) is another type of cartilage restoration surgery, but instead of encouraging new cartilage growth in place (in situ), this technique grows new cartilage in a lab setting.

Autologous cartilage implantation begins with the harvesting of a small sample of your own cartilage cells. They’re grown in a special medium in a sterile setting to produce cartilage that’s almost identical to the cartilage that grows naturally. 

Once the new cartilage cells emerge, we implanted them into the damaged joint surface. ACI is especially good at replacing full-thickness cartilage defects in large joints like your knee.

Nonsurgical techniques can be effective when damage is mild

Cartilage restoration surgery can be an ideal option for more severe damage or deeper lesions on the joint surface. But we may treat more mild cartilage damage with other techniques, like injections of fluids to improve joint lubrication and improve cartilage health.

Often, these techniques are accompanied by physical therapy and lifestyle modifications to relieve strain on the joint surface. We may use other surgical techniques to remove defects or bone spurs that lead to additional cartilage damage.

It’s easy to ignore some joint discomfort, especially if you’re still able to stay mobile and active. But by delaying medical treatment, you can wind up with more serious joint problems, along with long-term or permanent disability.


To learn more about cartilage restoration techniques and other treatments to help keep your joints healthy and functional, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Lee and our team at Orange Orthopaedic Associates in West Orange and Bayonne, New Jersey, today.

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