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Arthroscopy. 2019 Jan;35(1):171-178. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2018.08.028.

Cartilage Restoration Surgery: Incidence Rates, Complications, and Trends as Reported by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery Part II Candidates.

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Department of Orthopedics, CU Sports Medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Boulder, Colorado, U.S.A.. Electronic address:
Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.A.



To evaluate the current status of advanced cartilage restoration procedures among newly trained orthopaedic surgeons in the United States.


The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery database was queried to identify all advanced cartilage restoration procedure cases submitted by American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery part II board certification examination candidates from 2003 to 2015. All documented autologous chondrocyte implantation, autologous osteochondral transfer, osteochondral allograft transplantation, and marrow stimulation techniques (MSTs) procedures were analyzed. Analysis was performed to describe trends in annual incidence, types of complications, concomitant procedures, and geographical differences in incidence of advanced cartilage procedures.


From 2003 to 2015, a total of 2,827 surgeons submitted 7,522 cartilage restoration procedures, with 7,060 cases documented as MST (80.01%). The number of cartilage cases decreased significantly from 2003 to in 2015 (P <.001), with MST having the largest decline (P < .001). The incidence of open osteochondral allograft transplantation (odds ratio = 1.35; P = .023) and open autologous osteochondral transfer (odds ratio = 0.84; P = .004) increased over the study period. Overall, the majority of patients (57.0%) were male; however, female patients were on average significantly older than male patients (P < .001). Cartilage procedures were performed concomitantly with a realignment osteotomy procedure in 1.7% of cases. The incidence of surgical complications increased throughout the study period from 2.9% in 2003 to 9.5% in 2015 (P < .001).


Cartilage restoration procedures, specifically MSTs, are being decreasingly performed among recently trained orthopaedic surgeons. In contrast, complication rates have been increasing since 2003, demonstrating a possible paradigm shift toward more complex cartilage procedures, specifically osteochondral grafting procedures.


This study demonstrates a significant decline in the use of MSTs by recently trained orthopaedic surgeons. In addition, an increase in several more complex cartilage restoration procedures was found. Taken in sum, these changes may reflect a shift in residency and fellowship training away from marrow stimulation procedures that elicit a fibrocartilage reparative tissue and toward more complex procedures that provide a more hyaline-like articular cartilage surface.

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