Understanding Articular Cartilage Injury and Potential Treatments
Journal of orthopaedic trauma
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The goals of all orthopaedic surgeons treating articular cartilage injuries have been anatomic reduction and stable fixation of the articular cartilage surface with restoration of limb alignment and/or reestablishment of the joint stability, all while minimizing the risk of surgical complications. Recent developments in the study of articular cartilage injury have shown that there is a robust cellular response to joint injury. This response has been shown to involve the synoviocytes, chondrocytes, and osteocytes in and around the injured joint and if these responses are left unchecked, they can lead to the development of posttraumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA). Therefore, to predictably and successfully treat articular cartilage injuries, it is not sufficient to just restore articular congruity, limb alignment, and joint stability, but we must also recognize and attempt to mitigate this associated cellular response. Understanding not only the mechanical aspects of these joint injuries but also the biological aspects is paramount to giving our patients the best opportunity to heal their injuries, recover full function, and avoid the potential devastating development of PTOA. Gone is the simplistic view that if one can achieve articular congruity after intraarticular fracture, as well as joint stability after ligamentous injury, that our patients will do just fine. This review sheds new light on the molecular response to cartilage injury, how residual joint incongruity and instability affect the joint's ability to recover from injury, and how chondrocyte apoptosis in response to injury can influence joint. This article then briefly reviews how cellular and growth factors may be beneficial to the treatment of articular cartilage injury and how ultimately cartilage regeneration may be used in the future to salvage the joints ravaged by PTOA in response to injury.