The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Knee Operation Technology: Banish Knee Pain With Microfracture Surgery

Posted by on Friday, September 6th, 2013

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Do you ever wonder how professional athletes sustain such terrible physical injuries, but seem to return to the game in no time at all? One of the secret weapons we use here at our NYC Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine is the microfracture knee operation. Recently, the Texans’ third-round pick, Brennan Williams, underwent knee microfracture surgery after a May 11th knee injury during the second day of training camp sidelined him with severe pain and inflammation.

What Is Microfracture Knee Surgery?

The idea behind microfracture surgery is that surgeons prompt the body’s own natural healing capabilities to repair worn-down cartilage. During microfracture knee surgery, a surgeon cleans off an area where cartilage as been lost and drills small holes into the bone, which allow the body’s own stem cells to enter the area. Once a blood clot forms, cartilage-building cells are released.

Are There Any Drawbacks To Microfracture Surgery?

Unfortunately, the procedure does not work 100% of the time. It’s believed there is a 15% chance that the procedure will not fix the problem. Even when it does work, the effects may not be long lasting — with patients experiencing reprieve from their symptoms for only two to five years in some cases. However, an 11-year study found that 75 to 80% of patients under 45 who had microfracture surgery enjoyed “significant improvement” in their conditions over a decade after the procedure.

Medical professionals are looking at ways to improve upon this new sports medicine breakthrough. For instance, scientists are testing a substance called Cartistem (a blend of hyaluronic acid and umbilical cord blood) to determine if it can increase natural cartilage production. The problem with stem cells is that, while we possess them, they are few in number. For that reason, our body’s own natural cartilage production can be limited. Early animal test results and clinical trials of Cartistem have proved promising so far.

What Is Microfracture Surgery Recovery Like?

No surgery is a walk in the park. Patients typically spend six to eight weeks with non-weight-bearing casts and crutches. Recovery time is slow. Physical therapy and working through points of pain during range-of-motion exercises may begin after the cast comes off. A gradual return to more intense activities can begin at four months, so athletes can expect to be out for at least a season. Minnesota Vikings Center John Sullivan returned to practice a year after microfracture surgery, which was considered a relatively quick return.

 

According to the NY Times, microfracture surgery used to be considered “a career death sentence,” but the 2005 microfracture surgery performed on NY Knicks’ “big guy” Amar’e Stoudemire shed a more favorable light on the procedure. At age 22, he was one of the youngest players to have this type of surgery done, but he rebounded to the basketball court with one of his best seasons in 2006-2007, averaging 20.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.

Given the positive press, the growing number of success stories and the latest breakthroughs in science, we expect to see many more sports medicine practitioners giving microfracture surgery a second look.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.