Microfracture is a keyhole procedure used to treat localised areas of lost cartilage within the knee joint. Using keyhole instruments small holes are made in the worn joint surface. This allows healthy cells (stem cells) to come from the underlying bone marrow with the aim of providing a new smoother bearing surface. The tissue matures and improves over 6-9 months time.
The microfracture procedure is best suited to smaller localised defects and is not intended for very large areas of cartilage loss.
What are the risks associated with microfracture?
All surgical procedures carry some degree of risk as well as benefit. Generally the risk associated with keyhole surgery is very low. There is a small risk of infection associated with any operation; it is very low (<1%) with knee arthroscopy. Care is taken to try to minimise the risk of infection. There is a small risk of stiffness with knee surgery. What should I expect following microfracture?
There will be some localised knee swelling following the surgery. This can be limited by trying to rest the leg over the first few days following your surgery, keeping the leg elevated (raised) and applying ice or cold packs to the knee to keep the swelling down. The swelling will naturally go down with time.
In order to protect the new cartilage growth area treated with microfracture there are set post-operative rehabilitation guidelines and physiotherapy exercises to follow. This will vary depending on the area of the knee treated with the microfracture procedure. If the lesion is on the tibia (top of shin bone) or femur (thigh bone) then a restriction is sometimes placed on the amount of weight bearing allowed in the early weeks following surgery and you may require the use of crutches.
It is important to work on maintaining a good range of motion within the knee. This can be achieved with revolutions on a static exercise bike and a very low resistance allowing the need to keep moving but avoiding putting the load through the area treated with surgery.