A cartilage is an extremely vital structure of the body. It is a band of tissue which connects bone to bone and protects the bone during activity.1 The cartilage is present between any joints of the body including the elbows, knees, and ankles. The main function of a cartilage is to protect the bones from rubbing against each other as this may cause degeneration of the bone resulting in painful conditions like arthritis.
However, while working to protect the bones, it is the cartilage that becomes vulnerable to damage and to make the scenario worse, cartilage is not supplied oxygenated blood as it does not have any blood vessels and thus it cannot regenerate as an individual ages. However, with the advancement that medical science has made over the years, physicians have come up with certain options through which damaged cartilage can be repaired, transplanted, and even regenerated.
This is especially true for individuals with cartilage damage or loss in the knee joint and has infused new life in such patients. It should be noted here that age plays a vital role in deciding whether any of the options for repairing a damaged cartilage will work as such treatments are most effective in the younger population. Repair or transplant treatments are not recommended for individuals with chronic knee problems such as osteoarthritis.
How Does A Cartilage Heal?
Some of the ways that a cartilage can heal is:
Cartilage Repair: This treatment is done when there is a tear in the cartilage due to overuse or an injury.2 A cartilage repair can be done through a minimally invasive surgery called chondroplasty where the surgeon uses special tools to realign the damaged cartilage and repair the tear and then flushing the joint such that no loose debris is left behind.
Regeneration of Cartilage: A cartilage does not have power to heal itself but the bone underneath the cartilage can definitely heal. This is done by making small abrasions underneath the damaged cartilage to the bone which promotes new bone growth. Once new bone grows, it literally clears away the damaged cartilage providing relief of symptoms.
Cartilage Transplant: This procedure involves taking out healthy cartilage from somewhere else and implant them into the area of damage. This procedure depends on the location of the damaged cartilage and the size of it. This decides whether a single cartilage will suffice for transplantation or more cartilage in conjunction will have to be used. Normally, the healthy cartilage is taken from a non-weightbearing surface.
Stem Cell Therapy: This is the most novel way of treating cartilage damage and the pain that ensues. While, all the above modes of treatment of damaged cartilage is dependent on the age of the individual, Stem Cell therapy and PRP injections have shown immense potential and efficacy in treatment of a damaged cartilage. PRP and Stem Cell Treatments influence the immune system of the body such that it promotes cartilage regeneration. Researchers are still working on a method that perfects this mode of treatment and provides the best result in people with pain caused due to damaged cartilage.
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