A new technique is spurring damaged cartilage to repair and restore itself.
Understanding Cartilage Damage
If you hurt your ankle or knee, you may suffer from a certain kind of injury called an osteochondral defect (OCD). An OCD is an injury to the smooth surface on the end of a bone, or cartilage, as well as the bone underneath it.
While OCDs can occur in any joint, they are most common in the knee and ankle. In the knee, they often occur between the femur (thigh bone) and the tibia (shin bone). In the ankle, they often occur to the talus (the bone that connects the leg to the foot).
In the past, there was practically no technology available to recreate hyaline cartilage – the natural cartilage we are born with and the kind damaged when a person suffers from an OCD. Instead, patients often underwent microfracture, a procedure where tiny holes are created in the joint to stimulate cartilage repair. This continues to be a viable treatment option, but it creates a less resilient kind of cartilage called fibrocartilage, also known as “scar” cartilage. Other options include cartilage transplants taken from a cadaver or using cartilage cells or plugs of cartilage and bone from another joint in the patient’s body.
A New Treatment Option
Now, orthopaedic surgeons can use the DeNovo NT Natural Tissue Graft to spur hyaline cartilage repair and restoration. The DeNovo NT Natural Tissue Graft is cartilage taken from organ donors under the age of 13. Unlike tissue taken from adults, it has an incredible ability to regenerate itself and poses little risk of rejection.
During the procedure, a surgeon will make an incision in the affected joint, implant tiny amounts of the tissue graft, seal the area with a special glue called fibrin glue, and then reclose the incision. In the following months, the cartilage cells migrate to nearby tissues, begin to multiply, and form a new cartilage tissue matrix that integrates with the surrounding host tissue.
A good candidate for the DeNovo NT Natural Tissue Graft will have a single injury or lesion and not suffer from severe arthritis in the joint. Often it can be a great option for athletes who have suffered a minor sports injury.