Oct 19, 2020
Joint Cartilage Regeneration Could Replace Knee Replacement Surgery

A relatively new and innovative technique could do away with risky knee replacement surgeries and give athletes a shot at continuing to play.

According to a recent story in The Washington Post, the technique regenerates cartilage from a sample of cells taken from the patient’s knee and is then grown in a lab. There, they are embedded on a collagen membrane before a surgeon implants the membrane into the knee, where new cartilage tissue forms over time.

Photo: Tim Evanson / Creative Commons

The Post’s story details the efforts of Matt Oates, 41, a former collegiate cross-country runner who continued to log a lot of times in his post-college life. A weekend warrior in his adult life, Oates tore his ACL in his right knee while playing in an indoor volleyball game and, later, tore his right meniscus. An MRI revealed that he may develop osteoarthritis and a possible knee replacement further down the road.

Oates, according to the Post, was presented with this new technique and opted for the procedure, the story read.

“It’s the first procedure that uses a patient’s own knee cartilage cells to try to regrow cartilage that has been lost or damaged,” Seth Sherman, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford University Medical Center and chair of the Sports Medicine/Arthroscopy Committee for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, told the Post.

Sherman went on to point out to the Post that the approach, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2016, has been in use for years in other countries with “robust evidence” to support its efficacy. “That’s why I like to use it,” Sherman told the Post. “It’s a huge deal.”

It’s unclear how many of these cartilage-restoring operations have been performed in the United States since its introduction here, but experts say its use is rapidly growing.

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“There are over a thousand of these procedures performed yearly in the United States,” Joseph Barker, the Raleigh orthopedic surgeon who operated on Oates, said to the Post. “This new technology is certainly increasing in popularity as more surgeons become aware of it and are trained in performing the procedure. The number of cases has been steadily increasing by about 25 percent a year since 2017.”

To read the full story from The Washington Post on the regenerative procedure that could replace knee replacement surgeries, click here

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