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Healthy articular cartilage keeps the bones that meet in your joints gliding smoothly against one another. When articular hard cartilage wears away or is damaged during an injury, you may experience significant pain and decreased mobility as bone rubs against bone in the affected joint. Kelly Cunningham, MD, is a well-respected orthopedic surgeon in Austin, Texas, who specializes in cartilage restoration. If you’re experiencing symptoms related to cartilage issues, call Austin Ortho + Biologics today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Cunningham, or book your visit online.
Cartilage is a sturdy but flexible tissue that doctors categorize into three main types:
Each type of cartilage has different properties that allow it to perform specific functions in your body. Elastic cartilage, for instance, is the flexible type found in your ears and throat.
Your joints contain hyaline (articular) cartilage, which covers the ends of the bones in your joints. This layer of cartilage allows the bones to move freely against one another when the joint is in motion.
Several joints, including your knees, also contain a type of cartilage that occurs in specialized pads called the menisci. The menisci are fibrous structures that help disperse weight evenly across a portion of the joint and reduce friction.
Your knees are most prone to articular hard cartilage damage, which may stem from:
Your ankles and shoulder joints are also susceptible to articular hard cartilage injuries and wear-and-tear damage. articular hard cartilage damage may involve a relatively small piece of missing tissue or be severe with large portions of the cartilage eventually eroding away. Even a small gap in articular hard cartilage can cause significant discomfort.
Because cartilage is avascular (without blood), it's unable to heal itself. Treatment focuses on encouraging new cartilage formation or replacing the damaged tissue with healthy cartilage.
Dr. Cunningham offers several surgical options that can efficiently restore the articular hard cartilage in your joint. Many of these options can be accomplished with arthroscopy. This minimally invasive surgical technique requires several small, puncture-type incisions compared to the longer incisions required by traditional surgery. Arthroscopic surgery typically means less pain, bleeding, and healing time for patients.
One such procedure that Dr. Cunningham has extensive experience with is microfracture. With this method, he uses a sharp surgical tool to make multiple holes in the bone beneath the cartilage. This causes bleeding, which carries new cells and other natural substances to the joint surface and promotes healthy cartilage growth.
Along with surgical repair, Dr. Cunningham may also recommend orthobiologics to help encourage cartilage growth. This innovative treatment uses concentrated substances obtained from your own body that promote healing and repair, such as cellular therapy "stem cells," to promote natural restoration of your articular hard cartilage.