Knowledge of the structure and function of articular cartilage is important when considering rehabilitation following surgical procedures for articular cartilage lesions of the knee. Articular cartilage is avascular and derives its nutrition primarily from synovial fluid, resulting in a limited potential for regeneration. Basic science evidence has demonstrated that compressive loading may have a positive impact on articular cartilage healing; however, excessive shear loading may be detrimental. Rehabilitation following surgical procedures for articular cartilage lesions should include controlled range of motion exercises. Exercises to enhance muscle function must be done in a manner that minimizes shear loading of the joint surfaces in the area of the lesion. A period of protected weight bearing is often necessary and should be followed by progressive loading of the joint. This article will: 1) provide a brief review of the structure and function of articular cartilage lesions as it relates to rehabilitation; 2) describe common surgical procedures to address articular cartilage lesions; and 3) provide guidelines for rehabilitation following surgical management of articular cartilage lesions.
J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 1998;28(4):232-240.
Key Words: articular cartilage, knee surgery, rehabilitation