What is Knee Articular Cartilage and How Is it Damaged?
Knee Articular Cartilage is the tough but flexible tissue that covers the ends of bones at the knee joint. Healthy knee articular cartilage helps movement by allowing the bones to glide over each other. It also protects the bones by preventing them from rubbing against each other.
Injured, inflamed, or damaged knee articular cartilage can cause symptoms such as knee pain and limited movement. It can also lead to knee joint damage and deformity.
Minor knee cartilage injuries may get better on their own within a few weeks, but more severe cartilage damage may eventually require a knee cartlage repair or a knee cartilage replacement.
What are the Causes of Knee Articular Cartilage Damage?
Causes of knee articular cartilage problems include:
- Tears and injuries, such as sports injuries
- Damaged Menisci
- Genetic factors
- Gradual wear and tear
- Other disorders, such as some types of arthritis
- Osteoarthritis results from breakdown of cartilage.
What are the Signs & Symptoms of Knee Articular Cartilage Damage?
Symptoms of knee articular cartilage damage include:
- Knee pain – this may continue even when resting and worsen when weight is put on the knee
- Swelling – this may not develop for a few hours or days
- Clicking or grinding sensation
- Joint locking, catching or giving way
It can sometimes be difficult to tell a cartilage injury apart from other common knee injuries, such as sprains, as the symptoms are similar.
What are the Diagnosis for Knee Articular Cartilage Damage?
Sprains and minor knee articular cartilage damage may get better on their own within a few days or weeks. However more severe cartilage damage most likely won’t improve on its own and if left untreated, can eventually wear down the knee joint.
Serious knee articular cartilage damage is probable when:
- The knee joint can’t move properly
- The knee pain can’t be controlled with ordinary painkillers
- No weight can be put on the knee or it gives way when used
- The knee looks crooked or has unusual lumps or bumps (other than swelling)
- Numbness, discolouration or coldness in any part of the knee
- Symptoms doesn’t start to improve within a few days of self-treatment
Tests such as an X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or arthroscopy (a type of keyhole surgery used to look inside joints) may be needed to find out if the cartilage is damaged.
What are the Treatment for Knee Cartilage Damage?
There are surgical & non-surgical treatment to repair & replaced a damaged knee articular in Singapore, these include the following in the list below:
Knee Articular Damage Non-Surgical Treatment
Self-care measures to repair a damaged knee cartilage are usually recommended as the first treatment for minor knee cartilage injuries. For the first few days:
- Protect the knee from further injury by using a support, such as a knee brace
- Rest the knee
- Elevate the knee and apply an ice pack regularly
- Take ordinary painkillers, such as paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Get medical advice if symptoms are severe or don’t improve after a few days. Professional treatment such as physiotherapy, or possibly surgery may be needed.
Knee Articular Damage Surgical Treatment
Severe knee articular cartilage damage doesn’t tend to heal very well on its own, so surgery is often necessary in these cases.
Surgery is usually performed using arthroscopy – a type of “keyhole” surgery where special instruments are inserted into the joint through small cuts (incisions) – although sometimes larger incisions need to be made.
It’s normally carried out under general anaesthesia.
Knee Cartilage Repair & Replacement Treatment Options in Singapore:
There are options in order to repair & replace a damaged cartilage using these surgical procedures & treatments.
Lavage and Debridement
This treatment is for less severely damaged cartilage. The knee joint is cleaned out to remove any loose tissue and the edges of the damaged area are trimmed to make them smooth. It may sometimes be possible to repair the damage at the same time.
Marrow Stimulation (Microfracture)
Microfracture is a surgical procedure to treat areas of a damaged cartilage where tiny holes are made in the bone beneath the damaged cartilage. These holes become a channel through the surface layer of bone, called the subchondral bone, which is hard and lacks good blood supply. By penetrating this hard subchondral bone layer, a microfracture channel allows the deeper, more vascular bone to access the surface layer hence forming a super clot. This deeper bone has more blood supply, and the cells can then get to the surface layer and stimulate cartilage growth. The new tissue is a “hybrid” of articular-like cartilage and fibrocartilage.
Small plugs of healthy cartilage from non-weightbearing areas of a joint, such as the side of the knee, are removed and used to replace small areas of damaged knee articular cartilage.
The alignment of the leg is altered slightly to reduce pressure on the damaged area and improve pain. This usually involves adding or removing a wedge of bone from the shin or thigh bone. The bone is fixed with a plate until it heals.
A knee replacement surgery in Singapore, or knee arthroplasty, offers pain relief and improved movement to those suffering from advanced arthritis of the knee. Replacing the whole knee joint with an artificial one, is occasionally necessary if the damage is particularly severe.
There are also a number of alternative surgical techniques that are sometimes used to repair knee cartilage damage, including:
Allograft Osteochondral Transplantation (AOT)
Similar to mosaicplasty, but the knee cartilage replacement is obtained from a recently deceased donor and is used to repair larger damaged areas.
Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI)
The knee surgeon in Sngapore first takes a small sample of cartilage cells from the joint. These are then used to grow more cells in a laboratory and the new cells are used to replace the damaged cartilage.
A special patch or gel is used to repair the damaged cartilage. It may be used in combination with marrow stimulation or on its own.
Frequently Asked Questions About Knee Articular Cartilage Damage
Can the Damaged Cartilage in your Knee be Repaired?
Yes. Focal damaged cartilage of the knee joint with symptoms of pain and swelling can be repaired surgically.
How much Does it Cost to Repair Damaged Knee Cartilage?
Based on the MOH website, the cost of knee cartilage repair in Singapore’s private hospitals ranges from $21,000 to $25,000.
How long does a Knee Cartilage Repair Last?
A Knee Cartilage Repair or Replacement is expected to be a permanent solution if the meniscus in that compartment of the injured knee is intact, and the stabilising ligaments of that knee are intact. The alignment of the knee should also be favourable.
What is the Recovery Time after Knee Cartilage Replacement?
For a knee cartilage repair in the weight-bearing areas of the knee joint, the patient needs to be on crutches for about 6 weeks. For kneecap cartilage repair, the patient is allowed to walk immediately. The replaced cartilage should be allowed to mature over the following 6 to 9 months. Hence, a return to strenuous sporting activities may have to be delayed till that time.