Cartilage Repair, BioCartilage Treatment Options Offered by Top Ankle Surgeons in Baltimore

Patients from the Baltimore and Mid Atlantic region seek the doctors of The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy for their expertise in cartilage repair. Our foot and ankle surgeons offer advanced treatment options including BioCartilage to repair cartilage damage and restore mobility.

What is Cartilage Repair?

Ankle injuries can cause damage to the smooth cartilage surfaces in the joint, whether from a simple sprain or a fractured bone. The most common cartilage injury is an osteochondral defect (OCD) of the talus (the floor) or the tibia (ceiling of the joint). These OCD injuries result in pain, swelling, instability, and catching or locking of the ankle. Standard treatments start with anti-inflammatory medications, wearing a boot brace, using crutches, steroid injections, and even physical therapy. If these fail to correct the problem, surgery may be necessary.

The goal of surgery is to remove the loose or damaged cartilage from the ankle and replace it with a healthier cartilage surface to restore smooth gliding of the joint.  This helps to relieve pain and allow the joint to function more normally.

NEXT: Types of Cartilage Repair procedures:  ›
Types of Cartilage Repair procedures:

Microfracture/Bone Marrow Stimulation 

The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy - Baltimore, MDThe simplest type of cartilage repair procedure is called microfracture or bone marrow stimulation. This outpatient surgery is performed with minimally invasive arthroscopy using small cameras and instruments.

After the damaged cartilage is removed from the talus, a small tool that resembles a pick or awl is used to make several holes into the bone at the base of the cartilage crater. Through these small holes, blood and cells will trickle up to fill the defect and form a blood clot. Over the next several months, this clot turns into a type of scar tissue cartilage called fibrocartilage.

In smaller osteochondral injuries, this type of repair can give excellent results in up to 85% of patients including return to sports and running.


In patients with larger osteochondral injuries or those that have already failed microfracture, more advanced surgical techniques are needed to repair the damaged cartilage. In these cases, cartilage that has been donated from human cadavers can be used to help supplement the repair. Older versions of cadaver cartilage graft were extremely expensive, limited in availability, and had a short shelf life. A newer commercially available graft, called BioCartilage, is highly processed into a powder form that contains collagen, proteins and growth factors. This is mixed with living stem cells harvested from the patient’s blood or bone marrow. 

After minimally invasive arthroscopy is used to remove the damaged cartilage, a small incision is made to insert the BioCartilage into the defect. This outpatient surgery has a similar rehabilitation to microfracture and appears to offer successful results in most patients. 

Osteochondral Graft

Another surgical option is to transplant a cylinder of bone and overlying cartilage – from the patient’s own knee or from a cadaver – into the ankle defect to restore a smooth surface. This is a more invasive surgery, especially if the graft is harvested from the patient’s knee, and often requires breaking a portion of the ankle bone to access the damaged area for insertion. This may be reserved for extremely large defects or in cases where all other techniques have failed. 

Ongoing research is underway to compare these exciting surgical options to refine techniques and offer patients better information.


NEXT: Who should receive Cartilage Repair? ›
Who should receive Cartilage Repair?

Patients with osteochondral injuries of the ankle that have failed conservative treatment are candidates for cartilage repair. An MRI or CT scan of the ankle may be necessary to evaluate the size and depth of the cartilage damage to help with surgical planning. There may also be other injuries to the ankle, including damage to the tendons or ligaments, which can be addressed during the same surgery. Patients should consult with an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist to determine the best treatment plan.


NEXT: Patient Stories ›
Patient Stories
The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy - Baltimore, MD


Sheri seeks expert foot and ankle surgeons to repair a complex previous ankle injury.

The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy - Baltimore, MD


Michelle, a physically active mom, is happy to be back in action after her BioCartilage ankle repair surgery with Dr. John Campbell. 

Additional Content That Might Interest You
Meet Our Doctors: Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction
The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy - Baltimore, MD
Patrick Maloney, M.D.

A 2020 TOP DOC
Dr. Patrick Maloney is a Board Certified orthopedic surgeon who provides focused expertise in foot and ankle surgery for patients of the Baltimore Metropolitan area.

Patient Story: Big Toe Arthritis (Hallux Rigidus)
Foot and Ankle Reconstruction - Baltimore

An active retiree embarks upon a second career but finds himself slowed down by arthritis in both feet. After surgery at Mercy he finds himself on the move once again.

See All Stories Like This ›