Cartilage defects are injuries that affect the smooth, white tissue covering the ends of bones in our joints. Injuries can be caused by trauma, overuse, or degenerative changes in the cartilage. Symptoms of cartilage defects can include pain, swelling, stiffness, and catching or locking sensations in the knee.

Types of Cartilage Defects

There are several types of cartilage defects, including:

• Focal: This is a small, isolated area of damage.

• Partial-thickness: This type of defect penetrates some of the thickness of the cartilage.

• Full-thickness: This is the most severe type of cartilage defect, involving complete loss of the cartilage down to the underlying bone.

Causes of Cartilage Defects

Cartilage defects can be caused by various factors, including traumatic injury, overuse, or degenerative changes in the cartilage as a result of aging. Trauma resulting from a direct blow to the knee is a common cause of cartilage defects and is often seen in contact sports such as football or hockey. Overuse can lead to a degenerative type of cartilage damage commonly seen in athletes that participate in high-impact sports such as running or basketball. Degenerative changes, which are a natural part of aging, can also cause damage to the cartilage, leading to a breakdown of the tissue. However, the specific cause of a cartilage defect may depend on various factors such as the person’s age, lifestyle, and genetic makeup.

Treatment Options

If you are experiencing symptoms of cartilage defects, it’s important to speak to a doctor who can diagnose the issue and discuss potential treatment options. Nonsurgical treatments like physical therapy or bracing may be an option in some cases, but more serious injuries may require surgical intervention.

Surgical options for treating cartilage defects include procedures such as cartilage microfracture, a procedure used to encourage the growth of new cartilage, and NOVOCART®D, which uses a patient’s own cartilage cells to create an implant that can be put back into the knee. Both procedures require a recovery period of weeks to months, depending on the patient and the severity of the injury.

If you’re experiencing knee pain due to a cartilage defect, don’t suffer in silence. Speak to Dr. Larson today to get the treatment you need. Additionally, be sure to ask Dr. Larson about any clinical trials that may be available to you. Seeking treatment early can lead to a better outcome and a more active lifestyle.