Damage to the articular cartilage can occur for several reasons:
- trauma, such as car accidents or falls;
- injuries, such as patellar dislocations or ACL tears;
- joint abnormalities, such as osteochondritis dissecans (OCD);
- previous surgery, such as removal of meniscal tissue;
- repetitive injury over time.
Articular cartilage damage is common, being present in over 60% of knees that undergo arthroscopy. Unfortunately, articular cartilage has a very low capacity for healing, since it does not contain blood vessels. Both superficial and full-thickness cartilage injuries may lead to progressive damage, similar to a pothole increasing in size with time, and can eventually end in osteoarthritis. The larger the initial cartilage injury, the faster the potential progression of arthritis.
This video demonstrates the appearance of a cartilage defect during arthroscopy.