Cartilage damage through knee and ankle injuries are a common condition affecting many individuals in Singapore with their daily lives. Modern advances in medicine, such as knee and ankle cartilage regeneration, gives patients more treatment options with the possibility for faster recovery times from injury and surgery, with results that can last longer.
What is cartilage regeneration
Cartilage is the rubbery tissue that acts as a connection and cushion between the bones of our joints. The cartilage is prone to damage, but healing takes longer than normal tissue because the cartilage does not contain blood vessels or nerves.
Cartilage regeneration is the future of knee and ankle joint repair. Regenerative medicine is a branch of medicine that uses stem cells and tissue engineering to enable tissues that have failed to repair themselves. Cartilage regeneration falls under this category of regenerative medicine and exciting advancements have been made in its potential to repair and rebuild knee and ankle cartilage.
Cartilage damage causes and symptoms
Cartilage damage can be caused by injury, accident, wear and tear, and activities like high-impact sports. Long-term stress on the joints is another contributing factor, especially in load-bearing joints like the knee and can eventually lead to osteoarthritis, which is a loss of cartilage in the joints. Surprisingly, inactivity can also play a part. Joints need to move regularly to be healthy. Therefore, long periods of inactivity or sudden bursts of intense sports activity such as inactivity during the weekdays and doing intense sports during the weekend can actually lead to cartilage damage.
Cartilage damage occurs commonly in the knee, but the ankle, wrist, elbow, shoulder and hip joints can also be affected. When the joint cartilage is damaged, it can cause:
- Debilitating pain
- Instability or locking of the joint
- Certain degree of mobility loss
Cartilage regeneration surgery and its benefits
Cartilage regeneration for knee and ankle joints can be done through microfracture and cartilage transplantation surgery. The microfracture procedure involves boring tiny holes, also known as microfractures, into the bone to encourage the formation of cartilage. For cartilage transplantation, cartilage is taken from the patient or donor and grafted in place of the damaged cartilage.
The benefits of cartilage regeneration surgery include:
- Return to your usual lifestyle and activities without having to endure prolonged pain and disruption
- Delaying or avoiding the need for joint replacement surgery
- Avoiding placement of artificial products in the joint for pain relief
- Prolonging or preventing osteoarthritis from joint injury
Recovery from cartilage regeneration surgery is based on individual factors, but it can take up to a few months for a full recovery. Regular follow-up appointments with your surgeon is important to monitor the progress of your recovery and to make sure the cartilage is adapting properly. Rehabilitation programmes, including certain exercises or physical therapy, may be recommended and you will be guided through them.
It is important to follow post-surgery recovery advice from your orthopaedic surgeon. Take caution not to partake in sporting activities for a period of time after surgery, until you get the green light from your surgeon.
The future of regenerative medicine
Regenerative medicine has the ability to replace damaged or worn out tissue with healthy tissue and has numerous medical applications. Treatments for orthopaedic conditions like knee and ankle cartilage degeneration and sports injuries have found success with regenerative techniques. Regenerative medicine is poised to be the future of healthcare with promising advancements being made.
Pain in your knee, ankle and other joints are signals that you may have an injury such as cartilage damage or developed a medical condition that can compromise your optimal movement and disrupt your day-to-day activities. There are many treatments available, from conservative approaches to innovative and revolutionary minimally-invasive surgeries like cartilage regeneration. The crucial thing for any injury like cartilage damage is early intervention.
Dr Gowreeson Thevandran is an experienced cartilage specialist in Singapore with a keen interest in cartilage regeneration and skilled at minimally invasive surgical techniques in the treatment of foot, ankle, knee, hip and thigh conditions. Book your appointment with Dr Gowreeson to find out if cartilage regeneration is the right option for you.