Microfracture is an arthroscopic procedure performed to repair damaged knee cartilage for patients with cartilage injuries or only a minimal amount of damage. This procedure often helps patients avoid or postpone the need for knee replacement surgery while effectively relieving pain and swelling in the affected area. The cartilage is necessary to cushion the area and allow for smooth, painless movement. Microfracture is most commonly performed in athletes who may have suffered cartilage injuries while playing sports.
During the microfracture procedure, a small surgical tool called an awl is inserted into the damaged area of the knee to create small holes, known as microfractures, in the bone near the damage to help release the cells that produce cartilage and restore the damaged area. The number of holes created may vary depending on the size and location of the area being treated, with most patients requiring five to 15 small holes.
Patients will need to undergo physical therapy after this procedure, and many are able to resume playing sports and other physical activities within a few months. Stimulation of a certain type of cartilage known as fibrocartilage will likely occur after microfracture, which can provide long-term pain relief but may require additional treatment in the future if the cartilage becomes damaged once again.