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Knee Cartilage Repair

A significant portion of patients with knee pain have damage to the cartilage that cushions the knee and are at risk for needing full or partial knee replacement after years of increasing pain. But many such patients with early, discrete areas of cartilage damage in otherwise healthy knees are candidates for cartilage transplantation.

Repairing patches of cartilage in the knees slows joint degeneration

Virtua Willingboro Hospital is one of the few centers in southern New Jersey that offers the treatment, with emphasis on two forms:

  • image courtesy Zimmer, Inc.Chondrocyte transplant (with live, preserved, particulated chondrocyte material harvested from deceased juvenile donors). Chondrocytes are the cells that excrete the pliable connective-tissue matrix material that makes up cartilage. They are embedded within this matrix.   In this transplant procedure, the orthopedist secures the minced articular cartilage in the defective joint space with fibrin adhesive. The chondrocytes can then produce more matrix material in the compromised area of the knee.
  • Bone-plug transplant (with a section of knee bone and cartilage material harvested from a cadaver).

The Virtua team performs both operations arthroscopically in about 30 minutes as a same-day procedure; however, both forms of transplant require several weeks of non-weight-bearing recovery.  Chondrocyte implantation is better for younger patients; while, the bone plug is less age restrictive.

These procedures are effective in relieving pain in patients with a specific area of damage.   They can stave off knee replacement in some patients.

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