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Cartilage Surgery Risks

As with any surgery, there are potential risks involved in cartilage surgery. The decision to proceed with the surgery is made because the advantages of surgery outweigh the potential disadvantages.

It is important that you are informed of these risks before the surgery takes place.

Complications can be medical (general) or surgical complications specific to the knee.

Medical complications

Medical complications include those of the anesthetic and your general well being. Almost any medical condition can occur so this list is not complete. Complications include:

  • Allergic reactions to medications

  • Complications from nerve blocks such as infection or nerve damage

Surgical complications


Infection can occur with any operation. If it occurs, it can be treated with antibiotics but may require further surgery. The Hospital for Special Surgery has the lowest infection rate in the region.

Blood Clots (Deep Venous Thrombosis)

These can form in the calf muscles and can travel to the lung (Pulmonary embolism). These can occasionally be serious and even life threatening. If you get calf pain or shortness of breath at any stage, you should notify Dr. Pearle, your medical doctor, or go directly to the Emergency Room.

Stiffness in the Knee

Ideally, your knee should bend fully, may not bend as well as expected. It should also straighten fully. Occasionally, further surgery is needed to remove the scar tissue

Failure of the Cartilage Repair

The cartilage may not take after surgery. It is challenging to reconstitute cartilage and cartilage resurfacing procedures continue to evolve. We currently have a 70-80% success rate with cartilage resurfacing.

Wound Irritation or Breakdown

The operation will always cut some skin nerves, so you will inevitably have some numbness around the wound. This does not affect the function of your joint. You can also get some aching around the scar. Vitamin E cream and massaging can help reduce this.

Occasionally, you can get reactions to the sutures or a wound breakdown that may require antibiotics or rarely, further surgery.


Cartilage lesions are associated with the development of knee arthritis over the long term. It remains unclear whether cartilage resurfacing can prevent the future development of arthritis.


Surgery is not a pleasant prospect for anyone, but for some people with cartilage lesions, it could mean the difference between leading a normal life or putting up with a debilitating condition. Surgery can be regarded as part of your treatment plan-it may help to restore function to your damaged joints as well as relieve pain.

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