Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Cartilage Restoration – Joint Preservation

Cartilage restoration and joint preservation are medical strategies aimed at repairing or regenerating damaged cartilage in joints to maintain joint function and prevent or delay the progression of osteoarthritis. These techniques are essential for maintaining joint health, reducing pain, and improving mobility.

Cartilage is a smooth, rubbery tissue that covers the ends of bones in joints, allowing them to move smoothly against each other. When cartilage is damaged due to injury, wear and tear, or diseases such as osteoarthritis, it can lead to pain, swelling, and impaired joint function.

Common Symptoms

  • Joint pain, especially during movement
  • Swelling and stiffness
  • A clicking or grinding sensation in the joint
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Joint instability

Cause & Anatomy

  • Trauma: Acute injuries from sports, accidents, or falls.
  • Overuse: Repetitive movements or heavy physical activity.
  • Aging: Degeneration of cartilage with age.
  • Genetics: Family history of joint problems.
  • Obesity: Excess weight putting stress on joints.
  • Inflammatory diseases: Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.


  • Physical examination: Assessing joint movement, pain, and swelling.
  • Imaging studies: X-rays, MRI, or CT scans to visualize the extent of cartilage damage.
  • Arthroscopy: A minimally invasive procedure where a camera is inserted into the joint to directly observe the damage.

Restoration & Preservation

Non-Surgical Treatments:

  • Physical therapy: Exercises to strengthen muscles around the joint, improving stability and reducing pain.
  • Medications: Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Injections: Corticosteroids, hyaluronic acid, or platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
  • Bracing and orthotics: Devices to support the joint and reduce stress on damaged cartilage.

Surgical Treatments:

  • Microfracture: Small holes are made in the bone beneath the damaged cartilage to stimulate the growth of new cartilage.
  • Autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI): Healthy cartilage cells are harvested, cultured, and then implanted into the damaged area.
  • Osteochondral autograft transplantation (OATS): Healthy cartilage from a non-weight-bearing area is transplanted to the damaged area.
  • Osteochondral allograft transplantation: Cartilage from a donor is used to repair large defects.
  • Matrix-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation (MACI): Cartilage cells are embedded in a collagen matrix and implanted into the defect.

Joint Preservation Strategies

  • Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight to reduce stress on joints.
  • Activity modification: Adjusting activities to avoid excessive joint stress.
  • Nutritional support: Consuming a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients that support joint health, such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and D, and collagen.
  • Protective equipment: Using gear like knee pads or braces during high-risk activities.
  • Regular exercise: Engaging in low-impact exercises like swimming, cycling, and yoga to maintain joint mobility and strength.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Physical Therapy

  • Purpose: Strengthens muscles around the joint, improves range of motion, and reduces pain.
  • Methods: Customized exercise programs, stretching, strengthening exercises, and manual therapy.


  • Purpose: Reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Types: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), acetaminophen, and corticosteroids.


  • Corticosteroid Injections: Reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Hyaluronic Acid Injections: Lubricate the joint, reducing friction and pain.
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections: Promote healing by using growth factors from the patient’s own blood.
  • Stem Cell Therapy: Uses stem cells to potentially regenerate cartilage tissue.

Bracing and Orthotics

  • Purpose: Provide support and reduce stress on the joint.
  • Types: Custom or off-the-shelf braces, shoe inserts.

Surgical Treatments


  • Procedure: Small holes are drilled into the bone beneath the damaged cartilage to stimulate the growth of new cartilage.
  • Ideal for: Small cartilage defects.

Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI)

  • Procedure: Cartilage cells are harvested from the patient, cultured in a lab, and then re-implanted into the damaged area.
  • Ideal for: Larger cartilage defects.

Osteochondral Autograft Transplantation (OATS)

  • Procedure: Healthy cartilage from a non-weight-bearing area of the patient’s joint is transplanted to the damaged area.
  • Ideal for: Small to medium-sized defects.

Osteochondral Allograft Transplantation

  • Procedure: Cartilage from a donor is used to repair large cartilage defects.
  • Ideal for: Large cartilage defects.

Matrix-Induced Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (MACI)

  • Procedure: Cultured cartilage cells are embedded in a collagen matrix and implanted into the defect.
  • Ideal for: Larger cartilage defects.

Arthroscopic Debridement and Lavage

  • Procedure: Removal of loose cartilage fragments and cleaning of the joint.
  • Ideal for: Early stages of cartilage damage.


  • Procedure: Cutting and realigning the bones to reduce pressure on the damaged cartilage.
  • Ideal for: Patients with misaligned joints.


Post-Surgery Rehabilitation

  • Pain Management: Use of medications, ice, and elevation.
  • Physical Therapy: Focused on restoring strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
  • Gradual Return to Activities: Gradually increasing activity levels to avoid overloading the joint.

Monitoring Progress

  • Follow-Up Visits: Regular check-ups with healthcare providers to assess recovery and adjust treatment as needed.
  • Imaging: X-rays or MRIs to monitor healing and joint condition.


How long is the recovery period after cartilage restoration surgery?
Recovery time varies by procedure but typically ranges from several weeks to several months. Full recovery may take up to a year.

Are there age limits for cartilage restoration procedures?
While younger patients generally have better outcomes, age alone is not a strict limitation. The overall health and activity level of the patient are also important factors.

What are the risks associated with cartilage restoration surgery?
Risks include infection, blood clots, stiffness, and the potential for incomplete healing. However, complications are relatively rare.

How effective are non-surgical treatments?
Non-surgical treatments can be highly effective in managing symptoms and improving joint function, especially when combined with lifestyle modifications.

Can cartilage restoration procedures prevent the need for joint replacement?
In many cases, cartilage restoration procedures can delay or prevent the need for joint replacement, especially if performed early in the course of cartilage damage.

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