Preparing for Cartilage Surgery: A Comprehensive Guide

Preparing for Cartilage Surgery: A Comprehensive Guide

London Cartilage Clinic

Written By London Cartilage Clinic

At London Cartilage Clinic, we are at the forefront of surgical and non-surgical orthopaedic solutions, musculoskeletal health, and regenerative medicine. Through our expertise, we are committed to enhancing patient understanding and outcomes. To this end, this article provides essential information on preparing for cartilage surgery, the challenges in cartilage repair, and how to navigate the recovery process effectively. 

How to Prepare for Cartilage Surgery 

Preparing for surgery can be daunting, especially if you aren’t sure what steps you need to take or how long in advance preparations need to be made. Although it’s important to be clear that proper preparation pre-surgery can be crucial to enhance success rates and speed up recovery. Here are key steps to prepare physically and mentally for cartilage surgery: 

Physical Preparation: Engaging in light physical activities helps maintain muscle strength around the affected joint. This is essential for supporting the joint post-surgery. 

Nutritional Support: A well-balanced diet rich in collagen and Vitamin C, alongside adequate hydration (at least 2 litres of water per day), is vital for tissue health and recovery. 

Pain Management: If exercise is too painful, consider less strenuous options like Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) to maintain muscle tone without strain. 

Home Preparation: Getting your living space ready for post-surgery recovery will help avoid any added stress that comes from trying to organise your home with limited movement. Ice packs and compression garments are recommended to manage swelling and pain during this period. 

Electromagnetic Stimulation: Devices like the I1 device may be used pre-surgery to stimulate tissue repair and health through electromagnetic waves. 

Returning to Work After Knee Cartilage Surgery 

The timeline for returning to work post-cartilage surgery can vary significantly based on the physical demands of your job, the type of surgery, and individual factors. For instance, in most cases cartilage replacement surgery has a longer recovery period than cartilage repair. Our recommendations to aid patients in returning to work post-surgery include: 

Rehabilitation Focus: Post-operative rehabilitation is crucial to regain a full, pain-free range of motion. This typically involves physical therapy focused on weight bearing, inflammation management, and sleep quality. Your surgeon will recommend a rehabilitation plan based on your specific circumstances and in consideration of factors such as age and underlying health. 

Collagen Turnover: The body naturally replenishes its collagen over approximately three weeks; hence a minimum of six weeks is often recommended for post-operative recovery. This allows two full cycles of collagen regeneration to minimise risk of re-injury. 

Challenges in Repairing Articular Cartilage 

Articular cartilage repair is a process that presents unique challenges due to the nature of the tissue involved. Firstly, cartilage does not have its own blood supply, which means natural healing can be inhibited by damage to surrounding tissues. This is compounded by the slow growth of the cells found in cartilage. These Chondrocytes also require a specific environment to repair themselves, which can be difficult to maintain. Finally, cartilage repair often relies on external stimuli. This can be difficult to accomplish due to the location of cartilage within the joint, as well as the smooth and slippery surface of the substance. 

Identifying Signs of Damaged Cartilage 

Recognising the signs of damaged cartilage early can lead to more effective preparations and treatment outcomes. The common signs of cartilage damage include: 

Pain and Stiffness: Persistent joint pain and stiffness are often initial indicators of cartilage damage. 

Swelling: Inflammation around the joint is a common response to cartilage deterioration. 

Clicking Sounds: Clicking, catching, or locking sensations during movement can indicate irregularities on the cartilage surface. 

Techniques used in Cartilage Replacement  

Advancements in cartilage replacement offer several options to allow medical professionals to choose the best path forward. The technique and equipment used will be tailored to the extent of damage and patient conditions. 

Grafts and Transplants: Using donor cartilage or transplanting a patient’s own cartilage are common methods. 

Innovative Materials: Liquid cartilage, which congeals and sets post-application, can be introduced through minimally invasive procedures. 

Natural vs Artificial: While autologous (patient’s own) cartilage is preferred, synthetic options are available when natural tissue is insufficient. 


Read our other piece on ‘Knee cap cartilage repair and regeneration’ for more insights on surgical options.  


Leading experts in cartilage surgery 

By being transparent about specialist cartilage procedures, the team at London Cartilage Clinic aims to empower patients and help them make informed decisions. Our goal is to improve your experience, from consultations and pre-surgery measures, through to your time in theatre and the recovery journey. Contact us if you have any questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Knee cartilage can be replaced using grafts, transplants, or synthetic materials designed to mimic the properties of natural cartilage. 

A diet rich in proteins, Vitamin C, and collagen supplements is recommended to support tissue healing and strength.

Light exercise might be possible within a few weeks, but always follow your surgeon’s specific recommendations based on your recovery progress.

As with any surgery, risks include infection, complications from anaesthesia, and the potential for post-surgical inflammation.

While surgery can significantly improve the condition and functionality of the joint, complete restoration depends on the extent of damage and individual healing responses.

Post-operative pain is common but can be effectively managed with medications and physical therapy strategies.

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