There are two main kinds of cartilage within the knee joint. The cartilage over the ends of the bones is called articular cartilage, while hyaline cartilage covers the joint surface. Knee cartilage replacement is just as the name implies - the replacement of the cartilage within the knee. Cartilage does not regenerate on its own; this is why so many people end up with joint problems when they are older. To replace the cartilage requires doctors to stimulate the body to produce new cartilage. Many use a grafting technique to help regenerate cartilage. Other options include shaving or debridement, microfracture, or abrasion. At best, an artificial knee lasts about 20 years or more. Most knee joints can last for ten years before they need replacing. So putting off that process is a big advantage and replacing the cartilage in your knees is one way to put off total knee replacement surgery.
Most ACL and meniscal tears also involve damage to the cartilage. Usually, the way cartilage damage is diagnosed is with arthroscopy or during surgery to repair another injury. Since some forms of cartilage do not contain calcium they may not show up clearly on an X-ray.
Patients with damage to the cartilage in a joint (articular cartilage damage) will experience:
Typically, the younger the patient the better the results of cartilage replacement is. The fewer past knee injuries a patient has had helps to improve the outcome of replacement. Older adults who have had past knee surgeries should consult with an orthopedic specialist to see if they are a good candidate for this procedure.