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Many conditions can cause or contribute to knee pain, but statistics show that in most cases, chronic knee pain is due to cartilage-related damage involving the femoral condyle, the two “bumps” or “knobs” that protrude from the lower end of the thigh bone (or femur). The femoral condyle fits together with the upper end of the shin bone (or tibia), and together, they form the hinged knee joint. The surfaces of these bones are covered in rubbery, slick cartilage that helps the joint move freely and without pain. But sometimes, the cartilage covering can become worn and damaged, increasing friction inside the joint and causing inflammation and pain. Over time, the cartilage can completely wear away in certain areas of the joint, resulting in bone-on-bone contact and severe, debilitating pain.

Not too long ago, the most common treatments for knee cartilage damage were pain medications, physical therapy and substantial restriction in physical activity until a knee joint replacement could be performed. But today, many patients with cartilage problems are able to relieve their symptoms and continue their active lifestyles with cartilage restoration procedures.

What is knee cartilage restoration?

Cartilage restoration uses different techniques to rebuild the cartilage covering of the knee. The techniques used are focused either on supplementing the existing cartilage with a cartilage graft or on stimulating the bone to produce new cartilage.

How is cartilage restoration performed?

Dr. Van Thiel is skilled in several techniques used in knee cartilage restoration, including:

  • Arthroscopic surgery: Some patients can relieve symptoms with minimally-invasive surgery to remove cartilage fragments or to reattach loose cartilage. Knee arthroscopy uses a thin instrument called an arthroscope. The scope is equipped with a tiny camera that lets Dr. Van Thiel see inside the joint and perform the surgery without the need for larger incisions.
  • Microfracture: This technique helps spur the development of new cartilage by stimulating the body’s natural healing responses in the damaged area. During a microfracture procedure, tiny holes are made in the exposed bone of the damaged joint surface. The holes promote the formation of a new blood vessels and new cartilage-forming cells. Microfracture may be performed arthroscopically and a special patch can be placed to help the new cells grow into healthy cartilage.
  • Osteochondral Allograft: In this procedure, Dr. Van Thiel will utilize donor cartilage and bone that is size matched to each specific patient. This cartilage graft is then placed into the area of damaged cartilage in your knee.
  • Matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation: Also called MACI, this procedure takes healthy cartilage cells from your knee joint, then grows them in a lab for several weeks. The new, healthy cartilage is reimplanted in your knee to repair larger areas of damaged cartilage.

The technique that’s used to treat your damaged cartilage will depend on the area where the damage has occurred, the amount of damage, your medical history, your lifestyle and other factors. Before selecting the approach for your procedure, Dr. Van Thiel will perform a thorough evaluation and examination of your joint, including diagnostic imaging like X-rays or CT scans.

Am I a good candidate for knee cartilage restoration?

Knee cartilage restoration is an innovative approach to knee pain, and one that’s still evolving. Generally speaking, the best candidates for knee cartilage restoration are younger patients who are in good general health. The best way to know if a knee cartilage restoration procedure could help you relieve your knee pain is to schedule an evaluation.

Take the first step toward knee pain relief

Knee pain isn’t going to go away if you ignore it – and in fact, it’s almost certainly going to get worse. Having an evaluation is the critical first step in relieving painful symptoms, restoring normal function and preventing further joint damage. Call OrthoIllinois at   and schedule a consultation and evaluation for knee cartilage restoration with Dr. Geoffrey Van Thiel today.

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