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Hospital For Special Surgery Doctor Explains Care For Your Cartilage

Dr. Anil Ranawat of Hospital for Special Surgery.
Dr. Anil Ranawat of Hospital for Special Surgery. Photo Credit: Hospital for Special Surgery

PARAMUS, N.J. -- As our bodies age, joints pain tends to be the first step in a seemingly long road of mobility issues. Cartilage injuries are often at the root of this downfall; Hospital for Special Surgery sports medicine surgeon, Dr. Anil Ranawat, discusses what causes cartilage to break down.

Can you talk about the current status of artificial cartilage? I had knee surgery more than 20 years ago where they removed cartilage from my left knee and now, I am in considerable pain.

People often confuse cartilage and meniscus. The former is coating at the end of bone that has a high water content that helps joints glide against each other while the latter is made of fibrocartilage and its primary role is to protect cartilage from early failure. We have new technologies to replace and restore both of them to prolong the longevity of the knee such as osetochondral autograft, autlogoous cartilage implantation as well as mensical allografts.

I am down to two good ankles and one elbow, and the rest of me is totally shot. I just had a total hip replacement and waiting on a right knee replacement, right elbow and back surgery. What could be causing my joints to destroy themselves?

There are three basic forms of arthritis. One is osteoarthritis, which is a gradual decline in cartilage over time. The other is inflammatory arthritis that occurs in younger people when the body’s own immune system attacks itself like rheumatoid arthritis. The third is post- traumatic arthritis, which is a result from trauma to a joint. It is best to have this evaluated by your treating physician.

What is the current research on cartilage injuries?

There are numerous new technologies using advances in autologous chondrocyte implantation, juvenile cartilage and minced cartilage. There are pros and cons to all of these and much depends on the patients and the surgeon’s experience.

I have cartilage knee damage and may need transplanted tissue. Is this common? Are most patients able to return to athletic activity? 

This is very common. Most individuals are able to return to high-level sports after an anterior cruciate reconstruction (allograft transplantation). Individuals can also be active after meniscal and osteochondral allograft, depending on associated injuries.

Dr. Anil Ranawat is a sports medicine surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery. He practices at both the HSS Outpatient Center in Paramus and the hospital’s main campus in New York.