Q+A: Can my knee cartilage be regrown?

Q Severe osteoarthritis in both knees has forced me to stop running. Some time ago I read about a pioneering operation that was performed on a professional footballer, in which sections of the knee cartilage were removed, regrown in a laboratory, and then replaced in the knee. Is this an option for a former runner like me?

A You are quite correct in assuming that this treatment is going on – it is being pioneered in Scandinavia and in a few centres around the UK and the States. At the moment the technique is experimental and appears to only definitely work in rabbits. The problem is that at the moment the cartilage grafts tend to fail in areas of the knee where there is significant load. This means that the surgeons who are performing the procedure have to select carefully their patients and know which ones are going to do well with the procedure. There is actually only a very small percentage of patients with arthritic-type problems who would benefit from the procedure, and even those patients undertaking it have to understand that it is still experimental.

If you have severe osteoarthritis in both your knees, then – sadly – this is not the procedure for you.

Simon Moyes, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, www.simonmoyes.com