Under certain circumstances, patients may undergo meniscal transplant surgery or autologous cartilage transplant to replace knee cartilage without replacement of the entire knee. Eligibility for either surgery is dependent on factors that include the patient's age, the extent of the cartilage damage and presence of arthritis.
Meniscal transplant surgery involves insertion of meniscal tissue from a human donor or cadaver into the knee joint, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Candidates for this operation must be physically active, younger than 55, have stable ligaments in the knee and be missing more than half of the meniscus. Additionally, the patient cannot be obese or have knee arthritis.
Autologous cartilage transplants use chondracyte cells cultured from a sampling of the patient's own cartilage in order to regenerate damaged knee cartilage, explains the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center. During the procedure, surgeons sew a membrane over the area of defect in the knee cartilage and then insert the baby cartilage cells. Over a period of several months, the cells adhere to the bone in the knee and grow into cartilage. Candidates for the transplant should be free of arthritis in the knee and be in their 20s to 40s.