There is a new technological development which can be performed to help repair this damage. It uses a patient’s own cells in an effort to repair damage to articular (joint) cartilage to improve joint function and reduce pain. This technique is called autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI), or autologous chondrocyte transplantation (ACT). The procedure is undertaken in two stages.
The first stage involves the collection of articular cartilage cells called chondrocytes through arthroscopy (keyhole surgery), and these cells are sent to a licensed laboratory where they are harvested for about four to six weeks.
At the second stage, the cultured cells are implanted into the damaged area of the knee which attach to the bone and repair the articular surface. Implantation is carried out as an open procedure.
ACT is not suitable for all patients with cartilage problems. It is normally only considered for people between the age of 18-65 years who have already undergone surgery for articular cartilage problems but the patients remain symptomatic and do not have full-blown osteoarthritis. Patients are given details of their rehabilitation regime and are typically allowed to put weight on their operated leg after six weeks and physiotherapy is continued for up to 12 months. Sporting activities are curtailed during this time.