Cartilage Restoration Specialist

Matthew J Crawford, DO, PhD

Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon & Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine located in Austin, TX

Trauma to the knee from an automobile accident, fall, or sports injury causes inflammation and pain that limits your range of motion. You don’t have to suffer from the symptoms of cartilage damage, and you may not need joint replacement surgery, either. Contact Dr. Matthew J. Crawford, MD, PhD, in Austin, Texas, to see if you are a candidate for cartilage restoration. Use the online booking feature or call the practice to schedule an appointment today.

Cartilage Restoration

What is cartilage restoration?

Cartilage is a rubbery substance that provides cushioning in the form of a smooth layer lining our joints. Because cartilage doesn’t heal well, damage to cartilage causes pain and swelling, which can lead to mobility problems and the need for surgical restoration. Cartilage restoration is a surgical procedure that resurfaces, realigns, and stabilizes the knee to avoid joint replacement surgery.

There are two types of cartilage restoration, autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI) and osteochondral transplants (OATS).


Autologous chondrocyte implantation is a two-stage procedure that restores cartilage loss. Normal cartilage cells are harvested arthroscopically from one healthy area of the knee for the creation of new cartilage cells. 

Six to eight weeks later, the cartilage cells are implanted into the damaged area of the knee in a second surgery. ACI procedures benefit people ages 15 to 50 with cartilage defects under 4 inches square.


Osteochondral transplants are a form of mosaicplasty which involves removing small plugs of cartilage and bone from healthy areas of the joint to replace damaged areas. The OATS procedure is effective in treating isolated defects in the knee.

Cartilage restoration surgeries take between one and four hours.

Osteochondral allografts

Osteochondral allografts are similar to the OATS procedure except instead of removing small plugs of cartilage and bone from healthy areas of your own joint, a donor provides the plugs used to repair your knee defects.


What causes cartilage damage?

Cartilage is damaged due to injury or occurs gradually over time, such as degenerative arthritis. Common causes of cartilage damage include:

  • High impact sports injuries (football, wrestling, rugby)
  • Automobile accident trauma
  • Obesity
  • Lack of movement
  • Arthritis


What are the symptoms of cartilage damage?

If you have cartilage damage, you’ll experience pain, inflammation, and stiffness. The area of inflammation is warmer than the rest of your body and tender to the touch. Your range of movement is limited. Cartilage damage most commonly occurs in the knees, elbows, ankles, shoulders, hips, and wrists.


Who is a candidate for cartilage restoration?

Young adults with a single injury and an otherwise healthy knee are eligible for cartilage restoration surgery. Cartilage restoration is not used for knees affected by osteoarthritis, a natural condition of aging. Knee cartilage damage caused by sports injuries and repetitive use is fixable with cartilage restoration procedures. Hormonal disorders affecting bone and joint development and congenital abnormalities you’re born with can also receive cartilage restoration treatment.

The knee is the most common joint to receive cartilage restoration, but the process is also used to restore ankle and shoulder cartilage. If you have multiple injuries in one joint or are an older patient, you’re less likely to benefit from cartilage restoration.


How long does it take to recover from cartilage restoration surgery?

Most patients require between two and three months before participating in weight-bearing activities and up to six months for a full recovery.

If you experience pain in your knees from injury, sports activities, or daily wear and tear, contact Dr. Matthew J. Crawford by phone or schedule an appointment online to find out if you’re a candidate for cartilage restoration surgery.

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