The second type of cartilage, known as articular cartilage, lines every bone in our body. This is best pictured as the rubbery stuff on the end of a chicken bone. If a divot of the articular cartilage occurs down to the underlying bone, this is by definition an area of osteoarthritis.
Microfracture surgery has limited applications but it is used for defects usually a half inch or smaller by making holes in the bone at the bottom of the defect, attempting to allow a fibrocartilage to grow in and fill in the space. The size and the location of the articular cartilage defect frequently determines the likelihood of success of the procedure.
A recent study in professional athletes revealed that 40 percent of the athletes who received microfracture surgery return to play at their previous level, 40 percent return to play in a diminished capacity and 20 percent were unable to return to professional sports. Even if successful, the fibrocartilage that fills the defect is not as durable as the original articular cartilage and can break down.
There is a great deal of research being done in this country and throughout the world for this particular problem in an effort to re-grow articular cartilage in a less invasive manner and with a higher rate of success.