Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation: Procedure and Recovery
Autologous chondrocyte implantation is an exciting new state-of-the-art procedure to treat damaged cartilage in the knee. This procedure, which may prevent the development of arthritis, is showing a high success rate in allowing patients to return to their normal activities without the pain they previously had. If you are considering autologous chondrocyte implantation, here is what you need to know about the procedure and its recovery time.
Two-Stage Surgical Procedure
There are two procedures involved in autologous chondrocyte implantation. The first procedure will require the harvesting of a very small piece of articular cartilage from your knee, which is similar to a how a biopsy would be taken. This procedure is done arthroscopically and will take less than half an hour to complete. The harvested cartilage is then sent to a laboratory where it will be treated with enzymes to isolate its chondrocytes which are cells that produce cartilage. Over the next six to eight weeks, these chondrocytes will multiply before being sent back to your surgeon to be implanted in your knee.
The second stage of your autologous chondrocyte implantation will involve an open surgery where a small patch will be sewn over the area of your damaged articular cartilage. Your surgeon will then inject the chondrocytes that were harvested and grown beneath that patch. The chondrocytes will adhere to your existing cartilage and form hyaline-like cartilage that is very similar to your knee’s natural cartilage.
Recovery Period for Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation
After the chondrocyte implantation, you will go through a restricted weight-bearing period of up to eight weeks while your new cartilage develops. Physical therapy will be an important part of your recovery to maintain your knee’s range-of-motion and to strengthen it. The use of a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine may also be recommended by your surgeon to help ensure the success of your chondrocyte graft.
You may be able to return to light sports activities after six months of your second procedure. Most patients can return to full activities between nine months to a year after the implantation if their recovery has progressed well.
While autologous chondrocyte implantation may have a longer recovery time than other cartilage repairs, it has shown promise as a lasting solution for those who want to return to full sports activities. Learn more about whether you are a candidate for autologous chondrocyte implantation by scheduling a consultation at 3D Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center. Dr. David Dominguez is the only physician in Brevard County certified to perform autologous chondrocyte implantation.