No time is a good time when you need a joint replacement. It takes time to heal, and physical therapy is necessary to help you get back to your usual activities. Cartilage repair may be able to help prevent the need for a joint replacement for some patients. Cartilage replacement or regeneration techniques are some of the newest medical technology available.
Lost or Damaged Cartilage
You can lose or damage the cartilage in your joints over time by general “wear and tear.” For those with hobbies or occupations that require repetitive motions, this wear and tear can happen much faster. Cartilage can also be damaged by vehicle accidents, sports injuries and the like. Diseases that affect the joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can significantly affect the health of the cartilage in those joints.
Cartilage cannot heal faster than the rate of wear or damage. While there is blood flow to the tissue, there isn’t enough to stimulate cell regeneration on its own. This means that once the cartilage is lost or damaged, medical intervention is necessary.
Methods of Stimulating Cartilage Regrowth
Before deciding on a much more involved procedure to replace or regenerate cartilage, your orthopedic surgeon may choose to try injections or minimally invasive surgery.
- Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections: Platelets in our blood naturally help heal our bodies after injury. During this procedure, platelets from your blood are filtered out into a concentrate then injected into the joint. There, the platelets stimulate the healing process.
- Bone Marrow Concentrate (BMC) Injections: Stem cells from your body’s bone marrow are harvested to create a concentrate that is injected into the injured joint. Stem cells help to repair our bodies and can become any cell necessary. This increases the amount of healing that can take place.
- Arthroscopy: This kind of surgery is minimally invasive, typically only requiring three or four small incisions through which the instruments are passed. These tools are used to grind and drill the bone in the joint. These techniques and microfracturing intentionally injure specific areas of the joint that then stimulate the body’s healing processes.
Methods of Replacing or Regenerating Cartilage
When the damage is more extensive, but a joint replacement might still be avoided or at least delayed, these procedures could be the right choice for you.
- Autologous Chondrite Implantation (ACI): After a small piece of cartilage is removed from one of your joints, the cells that produce the cartilage will be processed out at a lab. Then, those cells will be placed back into the joint under a patch to keep them in place. Physical therapy helps these cells to regenerate new cartilage in the joint.
- Osteochondral Autograft Transplantation Surgery (OATS): This surgery replaces the lost cartilage in the joint and the bone underneath to which it’s attached. This procedure takes the bone and attached cartilage from another area of your body, but a donor graft can also be used.
Is it Possible to Prevent a Joint Replacement?
Your surgeon will discuss the options that may work for you and recommend the best or most effective procedure. Repairing, replacing or regenerating the cartilage in an injured joint may not always prevent a joint replacement entirely, but it may delay the need for one. So is it possible to avoid a joint replacement? In some cases, it is.
One of the above procedures, or even a combination of them, could help prevent a joint replacement entirely, or at least postpone it for a while. How long? Your orthopedic surgeon at DOCS Health can help answer that for you. Call today to schedule an appointment for a consultation.