Microfracture is commonly performed for small cartilage defects. The procedure can be performed through arthroscopy, a mini-open approach or an open approach. Arthroscopy and mini-open methods are most frequently used.
The microfracture technique involves using an arthroscopic shaver to remove injured cartilage while maintaining healthy cartilage. The bone is then penetrated multiple times to allow cells from the bone marrow to assist the body in repairing the injured tissue.
Post-operative rehabilitation involves toe-touch weight-bearing for 6 to 8 weeks. Patients progress to full weight-bearing at 8 to 12 weeks. Some surgeons will allow patients to bear weight as tolerated with a special brace. Motion is reintroduced over time. The goal is to return patients to sports activity around 6 to 9 months.
Historical studies have reported 70 to 90 percent success rates. Most of these studies have concluded that microfracture can offer good clinical results for small lesions at short- and long-term follow-up, but clinical outcomes may deteriorate over time.