Cartilage Repair

We offer advanced cartilage repair, restoration and transplant for athletes and other adults with cartilage injuries.


Cartilage Repair Overview

Cartilage is a flexible connective tissue that provides structure and cushioning to joints like your knee, ankle and shoulder.

Injury or arthritis can damage cartilage, causing pain that keeps you from the activities you love.

Depending on the nature and extent of cartilage damage, doctors may use procedures that include:

  • Cartilage repair: Orthopedic surgeons can reattach or remove bits of loose cartilage using minimally invasive arthroscopy. During arthroscopy, doctors insert thin, flexible surgical instruments equipped with a camera through small incisions. An advantage of this type of cartilage repair is that surgeons can do it in a single procedure.
  • Cartilage implant: Surgeons can harvest healthy cartilage cells from your joint and grow new ones in the lab. Surgeons then attach the new cartilage in the area of cartilage loss or damage. Since cartilage implant uses your own cells, there is no risk of your body rejecting the tissue.
  • Cartilage transplant: Orthopedic specialists can transplant healthy cartilage from your own body or from a donor into the affected area. It’s important to note that cartilage transplants aren’t for everyone. They often work best on people who are young, in good health and have cartilage issues due to an injury.
  • Meniscus transplant: Meniscus transplant is a cartilage transplant procedure for repairing a severely torn meniscus. The meniscus is a disc that sits between your shin bone and thigh bone. Meniscus transplant is a treatment option for those with a meniscus too badly damaged for repair. Learn more about meniscus transplant.

The Aurora Difference

Cartilage Repair Procedures at Aurora

People come to us for cartilage injury repair because we offer:

  • Advanced treatment: Aurora doctors were the first to perform cartilage transplant in southeast Wisconsin more than 25 years ago, making us experts in this advanced procedure.
  • Expert teams: Many of our orthopedic surgeons specialize in cartilage repair and have additional training in sports medicine. This gives us a competitive edge when treating athletes and active adults.
  • Coordinated surgical care: As one of Wisconsin’s largest regional health care systems, we have almost everything you need to make a full recovery. Our orthopedic specialists work with primary care doctors, physical therapists and holistic specialists to provide streamlined, comprehensive care for you throughout treatment and recovery.
  • Convenient access to therapy: We have a large number of physical and occupational therapists in convenient locations throughout eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. That makes it easy to recover from surgery closer to where you live and train. Learn more about physical therapy.

What to Expect

Your Cartilage Repair Procedure

Your doctor may ask you to avoid eating before your cartilage repair surgery. You may also need to stop taking medications like blood thinners that could increase your bleeding risk.

Before starting your surgery, your orthopedist will give you medicine to make you go to sleep.

Our orthopedists use minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery to perform cartilage restoration procedures. During arthroscopic surgery, orthopedists insert thin, flexible surgical instruments through tiny incisions. This process minimizes your scarring and recovery time compared to traditional, open surgery.

Learn more about minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery.

Recovering from Cartilage Repair Procedures

It may take several weeks for you to recover from surgery, depending on the particular procedure you undergo. With arthroscopic cartilage repair, you could be home in as little as a day.

When you return home, you’ll take prescribed medication to reduce swelling and pain. Your doctor will provide specific directions and activity restrictions that will help protect your joints as you heal.

After a cartilage restoration procedure, you may also need physical therapy to regain strength and range of motion in your joint.

Learn more about orthopedic physical therapy.

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