Rehabilitation after Cartilage Transplant: What happens after surgery?
Directly after transplantation the cartilage cells are a soft jelly like substance. They will not have the thickness and resilience of the surrounding cartilage. This is comparable to a newly sown lawn. Just as new grass must be protected from heavy use e.g. football being played on it, the newly implanted cartilage must be protected from full weight-bearing activity. On the third day following the operation, the patient may leave the hospital. As standing or walking unaided is not possible for the next six weeks, the patient must use crutches and later on a walking stick. During these six weeks whilst the transplanted cartilage grows into the joint becoming as tough and smooth as the neighbouring cartilage tissue, the patient will undergo a program of physiotherapy. This ensures adequate movement of the joint and aids proper healing.
When can the new knee joint start to bear weight?
Weight-bearing on the joint is built up gradually. It starts 6 weeks after cartilage transplant with a steady increase of 10 kg per week every week, until the joint is able to bear weight for standing and walking unaided 12 weeks after surgery.
When can exercise be resumed after cartilage transplant?
Cycling, walking, swimming are recommended and other sports that are gentle on the joint are recommended approximately 3 months after surgery. Jogging is possible after 6 months, competitive running after 9 months and contact sports such as alpine skiing, karate, and football after 1 year. After only one year following the transplant, the newly grafted cartilage is no longer distinguishable from the natural cartilage tissue. Patients regenerating their cartilage with cartilage transplantation can enjoy something that no generation before them has been able to experience, the beneficial and lasting reversal of the damage to the cartilage in their joints.