Cartilage repair surgery prevents progression of knee degeneration

Pia M. Jungmann, Alexandra S. Gersing, Frederic Baumann, Christian Holwein, Sepp Braun, Jan Neumann, Julia Zarnowski, Felix C. Hofmann, Andreas B. Imhoff, Ernst J. Rummeny, Thomas M. Link

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: To investigate, whether cartilage repair surgery for focal osteochondral defects at the knee results in less degenerative changes over 6 years in a MR imaging follow-up than morphologically initially identical defects in non-operated control subjects from the osteoarthritis initiative (OAI). Methods: A total of 32 individuals received baseline and follow-up MRI. In n = 16 patients with cartilage repair [osteochondral autograft transfer system (OATS), n = 12; spongiosa-augmented matrix-associated autologous chondrocyte implantation (MACI), n = 4] MRI was performed preoperatively and after 5.7 ± 2.3 year follow-up. Baseline MRIs of non-operated subjects from the OAI were screened for initially identical cartilage defects (n = 16). Morphological knee abnormalities were assessed using WORMS, AMADEUS and MOCART scores. A sagittal 2D MSME sequence was implemented for quantitative cartilage T2 relaxation time measurements in all (0, 2, 4, 6 and 8-years) follow-ups from the OAI and in the postoperative MRI protocol. Results: For both groups, focal osteochondral defects were located at the femoral condyle in 8/16 cases (5 medial, 3 lateral) and at the patella in 8/16 cases. At baseline, the mean cartilage defect size ± SD was 1.4 ± 1.3 cm2 for the control group and 1.3 ± 1.2 cm2 for the cartilage repair group (n.s.). WORMS scores were not significantly different between the cartilage repair group and the control group at baseline [mean difference ± SEM (95%CI); 0.5 ± 2.5 (− 4.7, 5.7), n.s.]. During identical follow-up times, the progression of total WORMS scores [19.9 ± 2.3 (15.0, 24.9), P < 0.001] and of cartilage defects scores in the affected (P < 0.001) and in the opposing (P = 0.029) compartment was significantly more severe in non-operated individuals (P < 0.05). In non-operated subjects, T2 values increased continuously from baseline to the 8-year follow-up (P = 0.001). Conclusions: Patients with cartilage repair showed less progression of degenerative MRI changes at 6-year follow-up than a control cohort from the OAI with initially identical osteochondral defects. Patients with focal cartilage defects may profit from cartilage repair surgery since it may prevent progression of early osteoarthritis at the knee joint. Level of evidence: Prognostic study, Level II.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3001-3013
Number of pages13
JournalKnee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2019


  • Cartilage
  • Cartilage repair
  • Knee
  • MR imaging
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteochondral transplantation
  • Outcome


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