Ask Dr. Skendzel: What Can I Expect After Knee Cartilage Surgery?
Most cartilage repair surgeries can be done at convenient outpatient facilities with advanced minimally invasive techniques. Dr. Skendzel explains how postsurgical recovery steps promote the best surgical outcomes for cartilage replacement procedures.
Advancements in cartilage repair surgery
Advanced surgical techniques have accelerated recovery times after knee surgeries, including cartilage repair surgeries. Patients experience the best outcomes when they understand and follow recovery instructions designed to support cartilage regrowth. Dr. Skendzel explains what you can expect during recovery after knee cartilage surgery, and how special rehabilitation measures support cartilage healing.
“Cartilage surgery is a well-accepted treatment for patients with a focal defect surrounded by healthy cartilage,” says Dr. Jack Skendzel, a Summit Orthopedics sports medicine surgeon with fellowship training in advanced surgical techniques for knee issues. “The microfracture procedures we use were developed by Dr. Richard Steadman for cartilage repair; I learned them from Steadman during my fellowship. Our surgical focus is on creating an environment that promotes cartilage healing. Then, during rehabilitation, we use technology designed to support that healing.”
Recovery after knee cartilage surgery
For the first few days after knee cartilage surgery, patient recovery guidelines for cartilage repairs are similar to the guidelines for any knee surgery. The focus is on knee elevation, pain relief, ice to control swelling, incision protection, and rest.
“A few days after surgery, I meet with my patients to evaluate the healing process and begin postoperative treatment,” says Dr. Skendzel. “Patients should be prepared to be on crutches for six weeks. To encourage cartilage healing, patients will also use a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine. Cartilage isn’t fed by nutrients from blood vessels, but by nutrients from the synovial fluid in the joint. We know from the scientific literature that in order for the fluid to deliver proper nourishment to the cartilage, the knee has to be moving. The CPM machine straightens and bends the knee without pressure or stress on the joint. This continual motion supports good nourishment to the cartilage cells.”
Most patients are able to return to some physical activity after six to eight weeks, but full recovery after cartilage repair surgery can take anywhere from three to six months.
Getting the best surgical outcomes
Final surgical outcomes depend in part on the amount of cartilage damage done, and on the type of replacement surgery used. “The studies we have show that these replacement procedures are successful in about 80 percent of cases,” notes Dr. Skendzel. “In an ideal world, you don’t want to damage your cartilage. But we live in the real world, where injuries happen. When they do, Summit has advanced surgical options to offer. Our team works with you through treatment, surgery, and rehabilitation to encourage cartilage regrowth and support the best possible surgical outcome.”
Additional resources for you:
- Check out the article: Understand Your Joints: What Is Cartilage?
- More from Dr. Skendzel on cartilage: How Does Articular Cartilage Support Knee Function?
- Get the answer: How is Cartilage Repaired?
- More on Summit’s Sports Medicine services
- From American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (trusted external resource): Cartilage Restoration
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