How Long Does it Take MACI to Fully Regrow Cartilage?

MACI (Matrix-Induced Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation) is a minimally invasive arthroscopic surgical procedure indicated for knee pain. More specifically, MACI treats cartilage damage in the knee, which is one of the most common causes of knee pain. The procedure consists of harvesting the patient's own cartilage cells, which are specially treated in a lab where brand-new and healthy cartilage grows. Your orthopedic surgeon then implants the new cartilage back into the knee.

The time it takes for MACI to fully regrow cartilage varies. But there are average lengths of recovery time that will apply to most people. The variables include factors such as the size and location of the cartilage defect, the patient's health and medical history, and their adherence to post-operative rehabilitation protocols.

How Long Until You’re Able to Get Back to Normalcy?

The initial recovery period requires living with a brace on your leg, locked in a straight position to facilitate healing. After around the 6th-week mark, the brace comes off. At this point, the patient will begin a rehabilitation program to return to a normal range of motion and help strengthen the muscles around the knee.

2-3 months is the time frame that you can expect to resume normal, functional activities such as walking and light exercise. That said, better, pain-free, functional movement is expected 6 months later, as shown in a trial conducted by SUMMIT.  But depending on your response to rehab, the time it takes to return to high-impact sport is usually around 9-12 months.

How Long Until Complete Cartilage Regrowth?

Generally, it takes about one month between the initial phase of the procedure and the second. The initial phase involves extracting healthy cartilage cells from a non-weight-bearing position of your knee. These cells possess chondrocytes, which are the building blocks used to grow new cartilage. These cells then live in a lab for an average of one month where they are specially cared for to regrow new cartilage.

When this regrowth is mature enough, the collagen matrix that the cells grow on is shipped back to your surgeon and implanted into your knee replacing or covering the area of damage.

Is MACI Right for You?

In most cases involving knee pain, you will be a candidate for this procedure. But several factors must be considered before choosing to have this procedure.

Below lists areas of the knee that were historically more difficult to repair but are now easy to treat thanks to MACI.

  • Lateral femoral condyle
  • Medial femoral condyle with or without bone involvement
  • Patella (kneecap)
  • Trochlea

The safety and efficacy of MACI have not been determined for patients outside the age range of 18-55 years.

Contraindications to consider before choosing to have this procedure are:

  • Extreme osteoarthritis in the knee or other serious inflammatory conditions
  • Infections in the bone joint and/or surrounding tissue.
  • Blood clotting issues
  • Knee surgery in the past 6 months. This does not include surgery for extracting a sample of cartilage for biopsy purposes or having surgery in preparation for the MACI implant.
  • Knowing that you won’t be able to follow a rehabilitation program after your MACI surgery.

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