Accessibility Tools

What is Elbow Cartilage Transplantation?

Elbow cartilage logo

Elbow cartilage transplantation is a surgical procedure that repairs damaged articular cartilage in the elbow joint by transplanting cartilage to the defected area to relieve pain and restore normal function of the elbow.

Anatomy of Articular Cartilage

Articular cartilage is the smooth, shiny, white tissue that covers the ends of bones in a joint. This cartilage reduces the friction between the bone surfaces that glide over each other, making the movement smooth and painless. It also acts as a shock absorber that helps prevent any injury to the bone.

What are the Different Types of Cartilage Transplantation?

The different types of cartilage transplantation are:

  • Osteochondral Autograft Transplantation: In this technique, healthy cartilage tissue is taken from the bone present in another part of your body and is transferred to the injured joint place.
  • Osteochondral Allograft Transplantation: In this method, a circular plug of cartilage tissue is taken from a donor and transplanted to the site of the injury.
  • Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation: In this technique, a piece of healthy cartilage tissue is removed from another site using an arthroscopic technique and is cultured in the laboratory. These cultured cells are then implanted into the damaged area through open surgery.

Indications of Elbow Cartilage Restoration

Indications of elbow cartilage restoration include:

  • Trauma injury to the elbow due to falls or accidents
  • Congenital deformities
  • Overuse injury
  • Wear and tear from repetitive movements

Preparation of Elbow Cartilage Restoration

Preparation for elbow cartilage restoration includes:

  • Your doctor will perform a thorough physical examination to check for any medical issues.
  • Inform your doctor if you are allergic to any medications, latex, or anesthesia.
  • Inform your doctor if you are taking any blood-thinning medications or supplements
  • Refrain from medications or supplements such as blood thinners, aspirin, or anti-inflammatory medicines for a few weeks before surgery.
  • Avoid consumption of alcohol or tobacco at least 24 hours before surgery.
  • Stop eating and drinking from midnight on the day before the surgery
  • Your doctor will explain the procedure and written consent will be obtained.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home post-surgery.

Procedure of Elbow Cartilage Transplantation

Procedure of elbow cartilage transplantation includes:

  • This surgery is performed under general anesthesia.
  • Your doctor will perform minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery in which small incisions are made where an arthroscope, a thin flexible tube with a camera at one end is inserted into the elbow joint to view the joint surface.
  • Your doctor will pump a sterile solution into the elbow joint and special instruments will be used to remove debris and damaged cartilage tissue.
  • A graft obtained from the donor site is used to partially or completely replace the damaged cartilage using sutures.
  • The incision site is then closed with a bandage.

Postoperative Care Instructions and Recovery

In general, postoperative care and recovery after elbow cartilage restoration involve the following:

  • You will be transferred to the recovery area to be monitored until you are awake from the anesthesia.
  • Your nurse will monitor your blood oxygen level and other vital signs as you recover.
  • You will notice some pain and discomfort in the elbow area. Medications will be provided for comfort. Icing the area will be recommended to reduce swelling.
  • Physical therapy and range of motion exercises are advised to restore mobility and strengthen the joints and muscles.
  • You should keep your surgical site clean and dry for at least 48 hours. Instructions on surgical site care and bathing will be provided.
  • Refrain from smoking as it can negatively affect the healing process.
  • Refrain from strenuous activities or lifting heavy objects for the first couple of months. A gradual increase in activities over a period of time is recommended.
  • A follow-up appointment will be scheduled to monitor your progress.

Risks and Complications of Elbow Cartilage Restoration

Elbow cartilage restoration is a relatively safe procedure; however, as with any surgery, some risks and complications could occur, such as:

  • Post-operative bleeding
  • Blood clots (deep vein thrombosis)
  • Infection
  • Stiffness of the joint
  • Numbness around the incisions
  • Injury to vessels, nerves, or healthy cartilage
  • Allergic response
  • Failure of the graft
  • Loosening of the graft