Osteochondral (Cartilage) Defect

Feb 20, 2023

What is a cartilage injury or defect?

Cartilage lines the end of our bones and an osteochondral defect refers to a focal area of damage that involves the cartilage and also the underlying bone. The cause of these defects are unclear. Some can be a result of an injury or direct trauma. In other cases, it can even occur without injury. Osteochondral defects are commonly seen in adolescent patients. It can often cause a significant amount of pain and dysfunction.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of an osteochondral defect include pain, swelling, feeling of instability, catching/locking. Pain is usually felt during or after activity however, some patients may experience pain daily, even at rest.  Osteochondral defects are usually diagnosed by X-Ray or MRI.

How is it treated?

Treatment can be divided into conservative and surgical options. Professor Moran uses a number of factors to make this decision. This can include the patient’s age, severity of symptoms, the size of the lesion and also the location.

The most common surgical approach we perform is called an OATS (Osteochondral Autograft Transfer Surgery). This procedure involves harvesting a cartilage and bone plug from a healthy, non-weight bearing aspect of the patient’s knee and transplanting it into the damaged site. The procedure takes approximately 1 hour and involves an overnight stay in the hospital.

What is the recovery following an OATS?

Recovery following an OATS procedure involves a significant commitment to rehabilitation over a period of 6-12 months. Each patient’s recovery timeline is different and is dependent upon the severity of symptoms prior to surgery and the severity/size of the lesion. Our specialist team will monitor your rehabilitation and different time points and will guide your return to activity timeline.

Professor Cathal Moran is a specialist in the field of cartilage reconstruction surgery and has published many research papers in this area. If you would like to know more about OATS / Cartilage injury, please feel free to get in touch with our team by emailing [email protected]. We also have a number of blogs available including those on ACL treatment options, shoulder instability and more.