Deep-Frozen Tissue Successfully Transplants to the KneeThe meniscus or knee cartilage performs many important functions. It helps absorb shock and lubricates the joint. It holds the joint steady, and it takes some of the load off the knee. Without this little pad of cartilage, arthritis can develop.
For over 100 years, doctors took out the meniscus whenever it was torn or damaged. Today, the knee meniscus is saved whenever possible.
What if the meniscus can't be saved? In 1984, doctors in Germany tried a new solution to this problem. They transplanted meniscus from human donors to replace the torn cartilage in 23 patients.
Two different methods were used to prepare the tissue. In one group, the donor cartilage was frozen quickly and then dehydrated, meaning the water was removed. In the second group, the tissue was deep-frozen.
Patients were followed for 14 years after surgery. Patients who received deep-frozen meniscal tissue had better results than the quick-freeze group. Even after 14 years, the transplanted tissue that had been deep-frozen was in good condition.
In comparison to the deep-frozen meniscus, the quick-frozen and dehydrated tissue was smaller. It was also smaller than normal tissue. This led to more arthritis in the knee.
Saving the meniscus is the best way to preserve the knee joint. When this isn't possible, tissue can be transplanted to the injured knee. Deep-frozen meniscal tissue works best because it functions more like normal, healthy tissue.
Carl Joachim Wirth, MD, PhD, et al. Long-Term Results of Meniscal Allograft Transplantation. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. March/April 2002. Vol. 30. No. 2. Pp. 174-181.
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