Learning From Failure in Cartilage Repair Surgery: An Analysis of the Mode of Failure of Primary Procedures in Consecutive Cases at a Tertiary Referral Center

Aaron J Krych, Mario Hevesi, Vishal S Desai, Christopher L Camp, Michael J Stuart, Daniel B F Saris

Published: 09/05/2018


Background: As the number of cartilage restoration procedures is increasing, so is the number of revision procedures. However, there remains limited information on the reasons for failure of primary cartilage restoration procedures.

Purpose: To determine the common modes of failure in primary cartilage restoration procedures to improve surgical decision making and patient outcomes.

Study design: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

Methods: Patients who presented for revision after failed cartilage repair surgery were evaluated for factors contributing to failure of the primary procedure. All revision cases performed by a single surgeon at a tertiary center for failed cartilage restoration over a 6-year time frame were identified. In all cases, the medical records, preoperative radiographs, and magnetic resonance imaging scans were reviewed by 2 experienced cartilage surgeons. The cause for failure was categorized as malalignment, meniscal deficiency, graft or biologic failure, or instability. Univariate and descriptive statistics regarding patient demographics, index procedure, lesion location and size, and mechanism of failure were analyzed.

Results: A total of 59 cases in 53 patients (32 male, 21 female) met the inclusion criteria. The mean patient age at the time of revision was 27.6 years, and the mean body mass index was 28.4 kg/m2. Failed index surgical procedures included 35 microfractures (59%), 12 osteochondral allograft transplantations (20%), 10 osteochondral autograft transfers (17%), 2 nonviable osteochondral allografts (3%), and 2 particulated juvenile chondral allografts (3%). The mean lesion size was 4.4 cm2. Reasons for failure included 33 cases with untreated malalignment (56%), 16 with graft failure (27%), 11 with untreated meniscal deficiency (19%), and 3 with untreated instability (5%); 4 cases demonstrated multiple reasons for failure.

Conclusion: The most commonly recognized reason for failure was untreated malalignment. While biologic and graft failures will occur, the majority of failures were attributed to untreated background factors such as malalignment, meniscal deficiency, and instability. The stepwise approach of considering and addressing alignment, meniscal volume, and stability remains essential in cartilage restoration surgery.

Full Access Link: Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine