Cartilage (Mensical) Transplant Surgery

Cartilage or meniscal tears are often the result of vigorous sporting activities, general wear and tear due to age, being overweight, or diseases such as arthritis. Treatment can be either by repairing the tear, or if the damage is excessive, then a meniscus transplant or allograft may be required.

The knee is a complex and well used joint having to bear heavy weights and impact on a daily basis, coupled with the risk of diseases such as arthritis, it’s not surprising that knee cartilage replacement procedures are common.

The meniscus is a C-shaped fibrous piece of cartilage located in the knee joint which forms a protective buffer between the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia). The meniscus has several functions with its primary role being to act as a shock absorption system. The meniscus also limits joint flexion and extension, lubricates the joint and distributes weight across the knee joint.

However, if the meniscus is extensively damaged, then it can sometimes result in the need for a meniscus transplant or allograft, which means removing what’s left of the existing meniscus and replacing with a new meniscus (a cartilage ring) in the knee. However, replacement meniscus’ come from cadaver donors and so transplants will be limited to availability and cannot be supplied on demand. For this reason this procedure is only performed in cases of severe tears. This kind of knee surgery is usually carried out through keyhole surgery, which is performed by a Knee Surgeon using an arthroscopy.

How is Meniscal Transplant Surgery Performed?

There are two types of cartilage rings within the knee that could require repair or replacement; one on the inside called a medial meniscus, and one on the outside called a lateral meniscus. If a suitable cadaver donor has been found and your Knee Surgeon feels the meniscus will be a good fit and lab tests have determined that the allograft is not diseased, then the operation can take place. The meniscus transplant is done with arthroscopy assistance as well as an open incision. The Knee Surgeon will cut the meniscus to fit and any of the patient’s own existing meniscus will be removed and the new meniscus will be sutured into position. A general anaesthetic or spinal block will be used and the operation will take between 2-3 hours.

Meniscal implant being sutured into place.

After Knee Surgery - Cartilage (Meniscal) Transplant

After knee surgery, the patient is usually discharged from hospital the same day, unless for medical reasons, the surgeon decides to ask you to say overnight for medical observation.

You will be required to wear a knee brace for up to six weeks, so that the knee is kept locked into position. Initially, you will feel discomfort and pain but, this can be managed by painkillers until the pain eases. As part of the recovery process you will be seen by a Physiotherapist who will work with you on a series of exercises developed to aid your recovery. Physiotherapy usually lasts between three and six months and it is very important to maintain an exercise routine, as failure to do so, will slow the recovery process. Each person’s recover time is different, but as a general rule, you will be able to return to work within 6 to 8 weeks after knee surgery.

You should be able to resume your daily routine once you have recovered enough for the brace to be removed, but with restrictions on sport, lifting of heavy weights and also the requirement to maintain a healthy weight so as to reduce the amount of stress on your knees. A full return to sport usually takes around 6 to 12 months.

Surgery Consultation Process

As with all surgical procedures, Mr Guido Geutjens, Specialist Knee Surgeon, takes all of his patients through a thorough examination and diagnosis process before any surgical procedure is performed. Mr Geutjens will always ensure that a surgical approach is the most appropriate option and will fully explain the benefits and risks involved with any surgical procedure before proceeding.