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Cartilage damage is a common source of joint pain, especially in weight-bearing joints and joints that are subjected to lots of repetitive movement. As many as 60% of people undergoing knee surgery for chronic pain have substantial cartilage damage (called chondral defects).

At Next Step Orthopedics, Dominique Nickson, MD, draws from extensive experience in state-of-the-art cartilage repair techniques, often relying on advanced surgical methods, like minimally invasive arthroscopy, to restore normal, pain-free joint movement. Here’s how arthroscopy works for cartilage repair and how to tell if it might help you.

Cartilage 101

Cartilage is a thick, slick layer of tough tissue covering most joints’ ends, including weight-bearing joints. Cartilage performs crucial functions in your joints, preventing bone-on-bone damage and helping your joints move freely and without pain.

Many issues can cause cartilage damage, including a fall or other traumatic injury. One of the most common causes is everyday wear and tear. Wear and tear is a common cause of arthritis as years of joint use slowly break down the cartilage layer.

Cartilage damage increases the risk of friction inside the joint, leading to inflammation, pain, and stiffness. Sometimes, cartilage damage creates rough spots on the joint surface, leading to poor joint function and additional pain.

Cartilage is avascular, meaning it has no blood supply on its own. Instead, it absorbs nutrients from surrounding tissues. No active blood supply means it’s much harder for cartilage to repair itself without medical intervention, like arthroscopic surgery.

Arthroscopy basics

Arthroscopy means “joint observation”. Just like the name implies, it’s a surgical technique that uses special tools and methods to see inside a joint and evaluate its function. In addition to diagnosing joint problems, arthroscopy treats joint issues, including damaged cartilage.

During an arthroscopic procedure, Dr. Nickson makes small incisions around the joint. Then he inserts a long, thin, flexible scope through one incision. This scope is equipped with a tiny camera capable of taking still images and real-time video.

The images are transmitted to a video monitor, allowing Dr. Nickson to gain a magnified, close-up view of the joint space and structure. By viewing those images, Dr. Nickson can use special surgical instruments to perform joint repairs.

Using arthroscopy to treat cartilage damage

Arthroscopy is especially useful for treating damaged cartilage. During an arthroscopic procedure, Dr. Nickson evaluates the cartilage and surrounding structures to determine the optimal approach.

Depending on the type of cartilage damage he observes, he may:

  • Trim away frayed cartilage
  • Remove cartilage fragments
  • Repair or “patch” worn areas or cartilage
  • Eliminate bone fragments
  • Smooth a rough joint surface

He can also treat inflamed or infected areas using arthroscopy.

While arthroscopy can be very effective in treating or repairing cartilage damage, Dr. Nickson usually recommends conservative treatment options first. That includes treatments like:

  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Physical therapy
  • Oral medications
  • Joint injections

When those options fail to provide relief, he can use arthroscopy to examine your joint and map out the best treatment to help you feel better and regain your mobility.

Find relief for your chronic joint pain

Damaged cartilage is one common cause of joint pain, but it’s not the only cause. Arthroscopy is a useful tool in pinpointing the specific cause of joint dysfunction, so your treatment can be entirely tailored to your needs.

To learn more about arthroscopy and how Dr. Nickson can help you relieve chronic joint pain, call us at (972) 547-0047 or book an appointment online at our office in McKinney, Texas, today.

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