Osteochondral allograft transplantation surgery is a procedure that replaces damaged cartilage in the ankle with healthy cartilage from a donor, relieving pain and restoring movement and function to the joint. Cartilage is the smooth coating on the end of the bones that provides cushioning and support for comfortable and fluid movement of the joints. Cartilage damage may occur as a result of injury or degeneration and can lead to severe pain and arthritis. Damaged cartilage can eventually wear away and leave the bone unprotected. Because damaged cartilage normally does not heal well on its own, several surgical techniques have been developed to stimulate the growth of new cartilage.
The osteochondral allograft techniques involve transplanting bone and cartilage from from a cadaver to a damaged joint. When cartilage has been restored through the allograft procedure, it can help to delay or prevent the onset of arthritis. The allograft procedure is ideal for patients with large focal areas of cartilage damage that can be repaired with a graft. Widespread cartilage damage cannot usually be treated with this procedure, since the graft may not provide enough material to completely rebuild the cartilage of the joint.
The osteochondral allograft Procedure
During the allograft procedure a section of bone and cartilage are taken from a cadaver donor and transferred to the area of damaged cartilage. Prior to the procedure, the donor cartilage is sterilized and prepared, and tested for any possible disease transmission. The allograft procedure is performed while the patient is sedated under general anesthesia. The procedure typically requires an osteotomy to access the ankle to implant the graft. The allograft is fixated with small screws.
Recovery from Osteochondral Allograft Transplantation
After the allograft procedure, the joint is splinted. Most patients will use crutches for 6 to 9 weeks after surgery before they can successfully bear weight on the joint again. A physical therapy program helps to restore mobility and improve strength and flexibility of the affected joint. While recovery times vary, exercise and and regular activity can normally resume 6 to 12 months after the allograft procedure.