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Study finds knee cartilage injury can be treated with osteochondral allograft transplantation

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Athletes and highly active patients with cartilage injuries to their knee can be successfully treated with an osteochondral allograft transplantation, according to new research.

A study presented at last week´s annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) in Colorado Springs showed that these patients were consistently able to return to sport or recreational activities after the surgery, though frequently at a lower activity level.

“We examined the success of osteochondral allograft (OCA) transplantation in 149 knees, and found 113, or 76% of those treated with the surgery, had returned to activity at an average follow-up of six years,” explained lead author Dr William Bugbee from the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California. “Patients who are highly active can be discouraged by these types of injuries, so we are happy to see the success of this treatment option.”

An OCA involves transplantation of donated osteochondral tissue to the recipient patient´s knee joint.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, an allograft may be considered if a cartilage defect is too large for an autograft (where cartilage is transferred from one part of the joint to another). An allograft is a tissue graft taken from a cadaver donor. Before surgery, the donated tissue is sterilised and prepared in the lab and tested for any possible disease transmission.

The new study showed positive statistics relating to general return to activity, and almost half (48%) of the patients returned to one or more (but not all) of the same sports and activities, while 28% returned at the same level as before the injury.

“We also saw an overall 90% survivorship of the transplanted grafts at a six-year follow-up,” Bugbee noted. “This presents further evidence that the procedure, especially in those individuals who are highly active, can be positive for recovery and future athletic goals.”

The study adds to previous research showing long-term functional improvement in knees after OCA transplant, AOSSM said.