Cartilage is a durable, resilient substance that makes up the bulk of your body’s connective tissue. While cartilage performs various functions, one of its primary roles is to protect the ends of your joints from repetitive wear-and-tear, jolts, and other damaging impacts.
Even though cartilage is tough, it’s not indestructible. As you age, years of wear-and-tear take their toll, eroding cartilage inside your joints and increasing the risks of friction, inflammation, and pain. Traumatic injuries, like falls or car accidents, can also damage cartilage.
At Orange Orthopaedic Associates, orthopaedics specialist James M. Lee Jr., MD, specializes in cartilage restoration techniques aimed at repairing or restoring cartilage. In this post, learn why cartilage restoration is important and how it’s performed.
The role of healthy joint cartilage
There are actually three types of cartilage, two of which play roles in joint health and function. Hyaline cartilage is the cartilage that coats the ends of bones that form a joint, providing a slick surface that supports normal joint movement.
Fibrous cartilage forms the cushiony sponges or “menisci” in your knees.
Cartilage restoration is primarily concerned with restoring or replacing damaged hyaline cartilage. In addition to protecting the ends of your bones that make up your joints, healthy cartilage:
- Absorbs shock
- Cushions your bones
- Lubricates joints for smooth movement
- Reduces damaging friction
- Supports a full range of movement
When cartilage is damaged, most people experience pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Worse, these effects can increase over time without proper medical care.
Composed primarily of water, cartilage contains no blood vessels or nerves, depending instead on absorption of key nutrients through its tough matrix. Because circulation plays such a key role in tissue healing, cartilage damage can take a long time to heal, and in some cases, it simply can’t return to its healthy state on its own. That's when restoration may help.
Quick facts about cartilage restoration
Cartilage restoration requires special techniques to either replace damaged cartilage or stimulate natural healing to repair cartilage in your joints. Dr. Lee is skilled in multiple techniques, enabling him to select the optimal approach for your needs.
Mild joint damage can sometimes respond to medications or injections aimed at stimulating healing or supplementing natural joint fluid. More extensive or advanced cartilage damage typically requires a surgical approach.
Dr. Lee performs cartilage restoration surgery on an outpatient basis. Again, depending on your needs, he may recommend surgery to smooth out cartilage imperfections, transfer collagen grafts to the joint surface, or create areas of controlled injury that stimulate your body’s healing responses, including the growth of new, healthy collagen.
Before recommending a treatment for you, Dr. Lee performs a thorough physical exam and may order diagnostic imaging of your joint. Sometimes, he uses a minimally invasive technique called arthroscopy to see directly inside your joint.
Afterward, you need to rest the joint initially to promote healing. Dr. Lee provides every patient with post-op care instructions and follow-up office visits, as well as physical therapy recommendations, when appropriate.
Make joint health a priority
Healthy joints depend on healthy, intact cartilage for smooth, pain-free movement. If you have joint pain, we can help with cartilage restoration or other treatments focused on your needs.
To learn about a treatment that can work for you, book an appointment online or over the phone today with Dr. Lee and our team at Orange Orthopaedic Associates in West Orange and Bayonne, New Jersey.