Articular Cartilage: Injury Pathways and Treatment Options

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Articular cartilage injury and degeneration is a frequent occurrence in synovial joints. Treatment of these articular cartilage lesions are a challenge because this tissue is incapable of quality repair and/or regeneration to its native state. Nonoperative treatments endeavor to control symptoms, and include anti-inflammatory medication, viscosupplementation, bracing, orthotics, and activity modification. Techniques to stimulate the intrinsic repair (fibrocartilage) process include drilling, abrasion, and microfracture of the subchondral bone. Currently, the clinical biologic approaches to treat cartilage defects include autologous chondrocyte implantation, periosteal transfer, and osteochondral autograft or allograft transplantation. Newer strategies employing tissue engineering being studied involve the use of combinations of progenitor cells, bioactive factors, and matrices, and the use of focal synthetic devices. Many new and innovative treatments are being explored in this exciting field. However, there is a paucity of prospective, randomized controlled clinical trials that have compared the various techniques, treatment options, indications and efficacy.

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