There are modern procedures that can in many cases restore areas of acutely injured articular cartilage in the knee. It should be noted that these are note meant for knees that have developed the secondary changes of osteoarthritis yet. Acute injuries to the normally smooth articular surface are known to lead to osteoarthritis eventually. Unfortunately, there is very poor healing potential in the hyaline cartilage of the knee articular surface once damage.
ACI or autologous chondrocyte implantation is one way to biologically restore more normal functioning acticular cartilage tissue. In the picture above, there is a full thickness, large osteochondral defect in this case of the lateral femoral condyle. You can see the defect hematoma that develops which will lead to the development of scar cartilage. This is the body’s normal attempt to heal this injury, but we know that scar cartilage doesn’t function like normal hyaline cartilage and will not last. ACI procedure will attempt to replace this scar cartilage with the patients own articular cartilage cells that have been grown in the lab. The following sequence of pictures will show steps of the procedure. Click image for larger view.