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Our joints are lined with a smooth, white tough substances called cartilage. This surface helps joints move smoothly. As we age or engage in sports, this cartilage can become damaged. Sometimes conditions such as osteochondritis dissecans damage the cartilage. When this happens, a person has pain, swelling and difficulty moving the joints.
Osteochondral autograft transfer (OATS) involves harvesting bone and intact articular cartilage from a less weight bearing portion of the knee to fill the defect in the weight bearing portion. It can be performed arthroscopically.
This procedure is often done when a person has tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Both repairs to the ligament and repairs to the cartilage can be done in the same minimally invasive procedure.
To do the procedure, an orthopaedic surgeon uses an instrument that is like an apple corer to remove a circle of damaged cartilage. The same instrument is used to take a healthy circle of cartilage from a part of the knee that doesn't bear as much weight. The healthy circle of cartilage is used to replaced the damaged one. Over time, the cartilage grows into the edges of the cut area.