Marrow stimulation involves different techniques that allow bone marrow cells to enter a joint cartilage defect to enhance healing there.



Here the normal white joint cartilage has deteriorated, exposing the yellowish bone underneath. The surgeon has used a microfracture pick to create holes in this area through the subchondral bone to allow bleeding.


Illustration to show the microfracture pick, which is a long thin instrument that is passed through the arthroscopy keyholes, and tapped with a mallet from outside the joint.


Marrow stimulation techniques

The issue is that joint cartilage has no blood supply of its own and when damaged it has little ability to heal itself. Surgeons discovered that penetrating the bone plate below the cartilage layer allowed blood to enter the area, causing a local clot and creating the environment for progenitor cells and growth factors to cover the damaged area with fibrocartilage. An early technique evolved of drilling tiny holes from within the knee joint through the cartilage base plate (Pridie drilling) , but this apparently could cause heat damage and the technique was superceded by microfracture, where a small 'pick' was used to create the holes. Microfracture is now giving way to nanofracture, which is more of a needling technique, and this is now often done in combination with deliberate enhancement of the healing environment with other regenerative methods.


An overview of current stem cell practice relating to the knee and a hint of the future.

An interpretation of an article published in the orthopaedic literature in 2012.

The Editor's interpretation of a 2011 book chapter published in the book 'Modern Arthroscopy'.

This is the editor's interpretation of a 2009 medical publication outlining a study that was undertaken by a team from the Cartilage Repair Center at the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts in 2009.



Subchondral drilling for articular cartilage repair: a systematic review of translational research. Gao L, Goebel LKH, Orth P, Cucchiarini M and Madry H. Dis Model Mech. 2018 Jun 1; 11(6): dmm034280.

Prosthetic inlay resurfacing for the treatment of focal, full thickness cartilage defects of the femoral condyle: a bridge between biologics and conventional arthroplasty. Bollars P, Bosquet, M, Vandekerckhove B, Hardeman F and Bellemans, J. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc; 2012 Sep;20(9):1753-9

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