Does microfracture work well? Are there alternatives to it? If these questions are lingering in your mind, then read the following article which explains the microfracture knee surgery procedure, and its recovery time.
Usually, a damaged knee cartilage is repaired with the help of microfracture knee surgery. It is a common procedure and often, athletes undergo this procedure. Cartilage is the material that acts as a cushion in the area where bones meet the joints. Cartilage promotes the smooth movement of the joints. If a patient has only a small area of damaged cartilage (not widespread as seen in knee arthritis), a special surgical procedure helps stimulate new cartilage growth.
What is Microfracture Knee Surgery
This surgical option is used in the treatment of areas where small amount of damaged cartilage of the knee joint is present, on the underside of the kneecap. The surgeon first makes a 1/4-inch-long surgical cut (incision) on your knee and examines the inner side with the help of a long, thin device called an arthroscope. Using a small pointed tool called an awl, he creates small holes called microfractures in the bone near the damaged cartilage. This procedure triggers the release of the cells in the bones which in turn stimulate the process of building up of new cartilage. Thus, the body efficiently replaces the damaged cartilage with the new cartilage.
Ideally, the area selected for microfracture should be less than about 2 centimeters in diameter and the surrounding cartilage should be good and healthy. The number of microfracture holes created may vary according to the size of the area being treated. Usually, patients with a 1 to 2 centimeter area of cartilage damage requires around 5 to 15 small holes in the bone.
Successful and fast recovery depends mainly upon the appropriate rehabilitation process after the surgery. Knee surgery rehabilitation aims at protecting the area treated by microfracture and maintaining the strength and motion of the knee joint. The rehabilitation and the recovery time may vary according to the size and location of the area of cartilage damage. The patient will need crutches to get around as he/she will be required to keep his/her weight off the knee, for 6 to 8 weeks.
Physical therapy actually begins in the recovery room right after surgery. It is recommended that a continuous passive motion machine (CPM) should gently exercise the operated leg for 6 to 8 hours a day for several weeks. Generally patients need to use this machine for 6 weeks after surgery. The doctor will suggest a gradual increase in knee exercises until the patient regains full range of motion in his/her knee. These exercises in fact accelerate the new cartilage growth. Results of this surgical procedure are best when the surgery is performed on people below the age of 40 years and people whose cartilage injury is recent.
The success rate is about 75-80 % among patients 45 years of age or younger, even among professional athletes. In the best case scenario, patients can return to sports (or other intense activities) in about four months. The post-operative recovery period can be a major challenge for many patients. Cartilage transfer or cartilage implantation are the other knee replacement alternatives available to treat cartilage defects of the knee.
The cost of the surgery may vary from place to place and from hospital to hospital. Of course, the cost will be very small when compared to the cost of knee replacement surgeries. The procedure is also used to relieve knee pain from cartilage injuries. Microfracture knee surgery is thus, a very good option that helps people avoid the need for a partial or total knee replacement.