Full-thickness cartilage tears called articular defects are becoming more and more common with increased sports participation. The area affected most often is the femoral condyle. This is the end of the thighbone where it meets the lower leg to form the knee joint.
Treatment depends on the size, location, and depth of the defect. The surgeon takes into account the stability and alignment of the joint when planning the treatment.
One option is cartilage implantation or cartilage transplantation. Sometimes the cartilage cells from the patient can be used. This is an allograft implantation. If the defect is too large or too deep, then an autograft transplantation is needed. This is tissue taken from a deceased donor.
There are many safety regulations involved in using donor tissue. Testing must be done to look for bacteria and viruses. The tissue must be carefully preserved and stored at very low temperatures. To maintain strict standards, much of donor tissue is thrown away before it's even used.
Patient safety is always the number one concern in using donor tissue. Studies are being done to determine the ideal length of time that cartilage can be stored. At least one week is needed to carry out the minimum of tests. But if this timeframe could be extended, then more people might be able to benefit from available tissue.
You can be assured that after decades of transplants being done, the safety of this procedure has been improved. The biggest problem that occurs is graft failure. This can happen for many reasons. Sometimes the surgeon doesn't know why the implant doesn't take. In other cases, infection occurs.
Scientists hope that with a longer storage time, more testing can be done on the donated tissue. In this way patient safety is ensured and more people can be matched.