Infographic| Volume 35, ISSUE 10, P2771-2773, October 2019

How to Manage Cartilage Injuries?


      Although small cartilage injuries are commonly found in knee arthroscopy procedures, significant chondral and osteochondral injuries are relatively infrequent. Incidence of cartilage injury rises when considering traumatic origin, especially when approaching significant ligamentous or meniscal pathology. Options for restoration span the gamut from benign neglect to open procedures that restore both cartilage and subchondral bone. The best choice of procedure largely depends on lesion size, depth, and location. Smaller lesions isolated to cartilage <2 cm2 can be treated with marrow stimulation techniques such as microfracture with or without biologic options (bone marrow aspirate concentrate or platelet-rich plasma with or without cartilage precursors or scaffolds). Microfracture alone in larger lesions has been reported to be less durable and it is therefore not recommended for larger lesions. Smaller lesions <2 cm2 that include a subchondral injury can be treated with osteochondral autograft implantation, in which a core of cartilage and bone is transferred from a relative non-weightbearing surface to the lesion.
      Larger osteochondral lesions >2 cm2 are better treated with osteochondral allograft transplantation, where osteochondral cores from a size-matched, fresh cadaver are matched to the patient's lesion. This option may require multiple cores to be placed in a “snowman” pattern; however, recent literature demonstrated that a single plug might produce better outcomes. Alternatively, for large chondral-only lesions, a resurfacing procedure may be chosen that may include biologic options. Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI), currently in its third iteration (matrix ACI [MACI]), is an excellent choice with good long-term durability. In addition, MACI may be used for chondral lesions in the patellofemoral joint where matching the native joint topology may be more difficult. If the patient has an underlying bone marrow lesion but an intact cartilage cap that appears healthy on arthroscopic examination, one may consider a core decompression and injection with biologics such as BMAC and bony scaffold with fibrin glue (also known as bioplasty).
      It is also critical that the surgeon address any concomitant knee pathology that would compromise cartilage restoration. This includes addressing malalignment with distal femoral, proximal tibial, or tibial tubercle osteotomy, significant meniscal deficiency with meniscal transplant, and any instability from lack of cruciate or collateral ligaments with ligament reconstruction.
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