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Hip Cartilage Injuries and Repair

UC San Diego Health offers microfracture and osteochondral allografting to treat severe injury of the hip cartilage.

The microfracture technique repairs chondral damage by creating small holes in the area of the cartilage injury. These perforations stimulate cartilage production and healing. However, once osteoarthritis (joint degeneration) has set in, arthroscopy and microfracture will not help.

Cartilage transplantation, also called osteochondral allografting, replaces damaged cartilage with healthy cartilage. It is a treatment option for active people with focal (localized) cartilage and osteochondral injuries.

If symptoms are mild, cartilage injuries can sometimes be successfully treated with rest, anti-inflammatories, physical therapy and modifications in activity.

What is cartilage?

Cartilage is the smooth and nearly friction-free material that lines our joints, providing effortless motion over those countless miles. In the hip, cartilage is the smooth, white surface that lines the ball and socket of the joint. Focal or discrete cartilage loss can result from an injury or trauma. In contrast, a general loss of cartilage over the entire joint is considered osteoarthritis.

What are the symptoms of cartilage injuries?

Cartilage injuries of the hip generally cause pain deep in the groin area, especially during exercise. If there is a focal cartilage injury (in a small specific area),  a person may experience a sense of "catching." This catching may occur when the hip is in certain positions only. Generalized cartilage loss (osteoarthritis) is associated with different symptoms. Most people with osteoarthritis experience deep groin pain and stiffness or loss of motion in the hip.

How are cartilage injuries diagnosed?

Your physician can often diagnose cartilage injuries of the hip based on your symptoms and an exam. X-rays can sometimes identify signs of cartilage injury or loss, such as bone spurs or irregularities in the joint surface. An MRI is necessary to fully evaluate the cartilage surface of the joint. UC San Diego Health has highly trained radiologists with expertise in interpreting joint MRIs. They offer some of the most skilled "reads" of MRI studies available. We are an international referral center for this expertise.

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