Articular cartilage damage within the knee joint can lead to chronic and painful symptoms that include knee stiffness, and swelling. Cartilage defects are known to lead to the onset of arthritis and osteoarthritis. There are surgical procedures that have been developed to treat these defects and thus delay total knee replacement surgery for patients. Arthroscopic abrasion arthroplasty is one such procedure that your physician may use to restore knee articular lining by rasping damaged areas to promote bleeding, and formation of fibrocartilage, or scar tissue, which covers the damaged area. Fibrocartilage is not normal articular cartilage, but fibrocartilage is beneficial in decreasing symptoms of cartilage damage.
During this procedure, your physician uses keyhole incisions to insert a small camera so that he can visually assess the inside of the knee joint. During this process, he is able to visualize the damaged areas of cartilage and locate any bone spurs (osteophytes), rough bits, chipped pieces, etc. Using small surgical tools, he gently abrades and stimulates the damaged surface—down to bleeding knee bone marrow stem cells—and reshapes the joint so that blood and bone marrow stem cells can move their way to the surface, and cover bare areas with fibrocartilage.
Your physician may prefer to perform abrasion arthroplasty on smaller sections of the knee joint. Research has shown that the fibrocartilage, which is the substance that grows over the surface, is not as strong as normal cartilage. Thus, performing this procedure on smaller, localized cartilage defects, have better results than on wider or larger defects, for which there are other options.
While patients will feel marked improvement following surgery, there is no cure for arthritis. Fortunately, abrasion arthroplasty results in significant improvements for many patients, with an evidence-based rapid return to full activity.
Following surgery, your physician will prescribe physical therapy and rehabilitation so that range of motion and strength can be restored to the knee.