Microfracture, drilling, and abrasion arthroplasty
All three of these techniques encourage blood flow to the area of damaged cartilage. The increased blood supply brings cells to build more cartilage.
In microfracture, tiny holes are punched into the bone below the damaged cartilage using a sharp tool called an awl. Drilling also produces holes using a surgical drill. Abrasion arthroplasty uses a burr to remove the cartilage and stimulate the bone.
These techniques can all be done using minimally-invasive techniques, using small tools and cameras instead of making a large cut.
Autologous chondrocyte implantation
For this technique, the surgeon removes some healthy cartilage cells. They are grown in a lab for a few weeks to increase the amount and then implanted into the damaged area.
In this procedure, your surgeon removes a plug of healthy cartilage and bone and transplants it into the area where the cartilage is damaged. If the area that is damaged is large, multiple plugs may be used.
The plug may come from your own healthy joint, called an autograft, or from a donor, called an allograft.
Talk with your surgeon about which technique is right for your injury.