The Cartilage Restoration Center at Euclid Hospital is a comprehensive program for the restoration of cartilage in all major joints of the body. The center is part of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, which consistently ranks among the top five orthopaedic programs in the nation.

Only a handful of medical centers in the United States offer cartilage restoration, which is an invaluable procedure for the millions of Americans who suffer cartilage loss.

The Cartilage Restoration Center enable patients to return to healthy, active lifestyles by restoring and preserving movement and function and preventing further joint destruction.

What is cartilage?

Cartilage is dense connective tissue found in many places in the body, including the joints, rib cage, ear, nose, bronchial tubes and back discs. In the joints, it covers the ends of bones where they come in contact with each other and provides a smooth, gliding surface on which bones can move.

What happens when cartilage is lost?

Cartilage can be damaged or lost when people suffer an injury or develop arthritis, a disease that affects tissues of the joints and can lead to pain and loss of movement. When there is minimal or no cartilage in a joint, the bones can rub together. This painful situation limits a person’s ability to move their joints freely.

Why is cartilage restoration needed?

Cases of arthritis in America are growing dramatically—especially among active baby boomers. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, arthritis is among the most prevalent diseases in the United States and the most frequent cause of disability.

  • In 1990, an estimated 35 million people were affected by arthritis.
  • 60 million people will be affected by 2020, with the activities of 11.6 million people limited by arthritis.

Given these statistics, many experts are promoting the wider use of interventions that may reduce the occurrence and progression of the disease.

Can cartilage loss be reversed?

Although the body cannot repair or replace cartilage on its own, a select group of orthopedic surgeons are skilled in the art of cartilage restoration techniques that preserve, repair and replace cartilage.

How is cartilage restored?

Depending on a person’s age and the extent of cartilage damage, cartilage restoration techniques include:

  • Implantation – healthy cartilage cells are removed (or “harvested”) from a patient’s joint and then cultivated at a laboratory, where they grow and multiply. The new, healthy cells are implanted in the area of the body where cartilage loss has occurred (autologous chondrocyte implantation)
  • Autografting – harvesting a plug of bone and healthy cartilage from one part of the body and transplanting it in the damaged joint (osteochondral autografting)
  • Allografting – reserved for larger injuries, this procedure involves using a cartilage graft from a donor source (osteochondral allografting)
  • Meniscus transplantation – using donor cartilage, surgeons replace the meniscus, which is a specific part of the cartilage of the knee
  • Articular cartilage repair – during this arthroscopic procedure (using a tiny camera that is inserted through a very small incision into the joint), surgeons use pins or screws to reattach loose cartilage
  • Microfracture – surgeons drill tiny holes in the bone to stimulate new cartilage growth.
  • Meniscus repair – surgeons repair damaged or torn meniscuses arthroscopically by suturing them

What if my arthritis is really bad?

It may not be possible to restore cartilage using the above techniques for cases of advanced arthritis. In these situations, an orthopaedic specialist may recommend alternative ways to restore cartilage. These may include:

  • Viscosupplementation – injecting the joint with a special lubricating material that eases pain and restores movement
  • Osteotomy – adding or removing a piece of bone to realign the joint and take pressure off the damaged portion
  • Partial joint replacement – reconstructing the damaged part of the joint to delay or avoid the need for a total joint replacement
  • Total joint replacement – reconstructing the entire joint for the most long-lasting, effective solution to advanced arthritis

Cartilage Rehabilitative Therapy

After undergoing a procedure, a patient may benefit from rehabilitative therapy, prescribed by a physician, to achieve optimal level of mobility and function. Our team approach includes:

  • Cleveland Clinic physicians and specialists
  • Individualized rehabilitation programs
  • Speedy restoration of patients’ motion and movement
  • Skilled medical attention in the adjacent hospital

Nutrition Counseling

During counseling sessions, the dietician evaluates a patient’s current eating habits, assesses their nutritional needs and develops a detailed food plan that works with the patient’s particular lifestyle. For athletes, the counseling concentrates on proper nutrition for optimal bone health and healing. For patients who are overweight, counseling focuses on achieving optimal weight.

During one-on-one sessions, the nutrition counselor provides:

  • Customized dietary plans for individual patients’ specific needs
  • Education, including numerous educational materials
  • Support follow-up to help patients make and maintain their dietary goals

While some patients may require only one brief nutrition counseling session, others may need ongoing or multiple sessions.