Articular cartilage is a thin, flexible, slippery tissue that covers the surface of both the ball (femoral head) and socket (acetabulum) portions of the joint. Articular cartilage creates a smooth, frictionless surface that enables the bones in the joint to glide smoothly against one another within the joint. It also plays an important role in weight-bearing, and helps with flexibility, extending, and rotating the hip joint. Articular cartilage does not possess a blood supply of its own. As a result, if the cartilage is damaged, it does not possess the ability to heal itself.
Articular Cartilage Injury
Articular cartilage injuries can be caused by a variety of conditions
- Joint trauma resulting from a sudden impact (i.e. sports injury, or fall, automobile wreck)
- Gradual wear and tear due to aging
- Overuse injury resulting from excessive use of the hip joint without allowing enough time for recovery
- Degenerative medical conditions, such as osteoarthritis
Symptoms and Diagnosis
The most common symptom of an articular cartilage injury is pain. Patients often report restricted, difficult, or painful movement when performing regular tasks. These mobility issues are the result of inflammation caused by small amounts of damaged cartilage that may be floating within the joint. These are called loose bodies and can cause significant restriction of joint movement.
Most cases of articular cartilage damage can be diagnosed easily through x-rays and physical examination. An arthroscopy can also be used to help further diagnose the extent of the damage to the joint structure and articular cartilage.
Conservative, nonsurgical treatment options can be used to address the symptoms of articular cartilage injury. Medications can help ease any inflammation and reduce pain. Steroid injections into the hip joint may also help reduce inflammation. Physical therapy can improve the range of motion in your hip and strengthen the muscles that support the hip joint.
Most procedures to repair articular cartilage can be done arthroscopically.
Recovery following articular cartilage procedures will vary from 1-2 weeks on crutches up to 6 weeks. Physical therapy will be part of this procedure to help regaining range of motion and strength. It may take up to 3 to 6 months before patients experience no hip pain after physical activity.
HIP SURGERY SPECIALISTS
H Cobb Alexander, M.D.
Matthew D. Clayton, M.D.
Dale Culpepper, M.D.
Brett Franklin, M.D.
Randall Tindell, M.D.