Articular cartilage is the lining of the joint which covers the bone and in the knee is 5 – 6 mm thick and has a white rubbery consistency. This can be damaged either acutely eg in a skiing or football accident or chronically over time with wear and tear. It causes pain, swelling and symptoms of instability for the patient.
Most patients with damaged articular cartilage can be managed non-operatively with use of physiotherapy, intra articular injections but a small percentage will require reconstructive surgery for this.
Arthroscopy for Articular Cartilage Damage
The surgery is performed under a general anaesthetic as a day case. An examination of the knee under anaesthetic is performed to assess it for any associated instability and a full diagnostic arthroscopy of the joint is performed to look at all areas of potential damage.
Then once the damaged areas of the joint are confirmed, they are carefully inspected, probed and photographed. The unstable edges of the lesion or lesions are treated by stabilising the loose layers or pieces of articular cartilage using a radio frequency probe which helps seal the damaged cartilage and prevent it from lifting up in the future and then the underlying exposed bone is carefully drilled or micro fractured to generate a healing response. Also, the exposed surface of the underlying bone is gently dusted with an arthroscopic burr or shave to help with this repair process.
Following the procedure, patients may be required to be non-weight bearing for up to four to six weeks on crutches whilst the cartilage repair process.