Microfracture in Cartilage Repair: Efficacy, Adverse Outcomes, and Clinical Controversies

Microfracture in Cartilage Repair: Efficacy, Adverse Outcomes, and Clinical Controversies

Microfracture Technique: Limitations and Concerns

Microfracture, a technique used for cartilage repair, has been subject to debate due to its limitations and potential adverse outcomes. Key concerns include:

  1. Subchondral Bone Overgrowth: Studies, such as those by Mithoefer et al. (2009), have reported subchondral bone overgrowth following microfracture in a significant percentage of cases, which can lead to adverse outcomes.

  2. Clinical Efficacy and Potential Harm: Green et al. (2016) have raised concerns about the lack of evidence supporting the clinical use of microfracture and potential harm caused by violating the subchondral bone plate.

  3. Fibrocartilage Formation: The formation of fibrocartilage instead of more durable hyaline cartilage is a limitation associated with microfracture (Mohan et al., 2015). Fibrocartilage may not provide long-term benefits.

  4. Suitability for Large Lesions: Microfracture may not be appropriate for large-sized lesions, with concerns about technique flaws and clot instability (Kim et al., 2015).

  5. Granulation Tissue Formation: The technique has been linked to the formation of granulation tissue that eventually turns into fibrous tissue, potentially not providing the desired long-term repair (Mohan et al., 2015).

  6. Lack of Zonal Variation in Repair Cartilage: The inability to differentiate repair tissue from native cartilage and the lack of zonal variation in repair cartilage are limitations of this technique (Watanabe et al., 2009).

  7. Subchondral Cyst Formation and Rehabilitation Needs: There's a potential for subchondral cyst formation, and extended protected weightbearing rehabilitation is needed to mitigate the risk of subchondral plate fracture and protect fibrocartilage tissue formation (Hevesi et al., 2019).

In summary, the limitations of microfracture include the potential for subchondral bone overgrowth, the formation of fibrocartilage instead of hyaline cartilage, and the lack of long-term durability. These factors raise concerns about the efficacy and long-term outcomes of microfracture as a sole treatment for cartilage defects.




FAQs on Microfracture Technique for Cartilage Repair

Q1: What is the microfracture technique in knee surgery?

A1: The microfracture technique is a surgical procedure used to treat small areas of damaged cartilage in the knee. It involves creating tiny fractures in the underlying bone to stimulate the growth of new cartilage.

Q2: Why is there debate about the microfracture technique?

A2: The debate arises due to its limitations and potential adverse outcomes. Key concerns include subchondral bone overgrowth, formation of fibrocartilage instead of hyaline cartilage, and lack of long-term durability (Mithoefer et al., 2009; Green et al., 2016).

Q3: What are the potential complications of the microfracture technique?

A3: Complications can include subchondral bone overgrowth, fibrocartilage formation, granulation tissue formation, subchondral cyst formation, and the need for extended rehabilitation (Hevesi et al., 2019; Mohan et al., 2015).

Q4: Is microfracture effective for large cartilage lesions?

A4: Microfracture may not be suitable for large-sized lesions due to concerns about technique flaws and clot instability (Kim et al., 2015).

Q5: What type of cartilage is formed after microfracture surgery?

A5: Microfracture often leads to the formation of fibrocartilage, which is less durable than hyaline cartilage and may not provide long-term benefits (Mohan et al., 2015).

Q6: How does microfracture compare to other cartilage repair techniques?

A6: Compared to techniques like Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI), microfracture may have limitations in terms of cartilage quality and longevity. It is generally considered for smaller defects (Green et al., 2016).

Q7: What is the recovery process like after microfracture surgery?

A7: Recovery typically involves a period of limited weight-bearing on the affected leg to allow the repair tissue to mature, followed by physical therapy to restore function and strength.


  • Mithoefer, K., McAdams, T., Williams, R., Kreuz, P. & Mandelbaum, B., 2009. Clinical efficacy of the microfracture technique for articular cartilage repair in the knee. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 37(10), pp. 2053-2063. DOI: 10.1177/0363546508328414.
  • Green, C., Beck, A., Wood, D. & Zheng, M., 2016. The biology and clinical evidence of microfracture in hip preservation surgery. Journal of Hip Preservation Surgery, 3(2), pp. 108-123. DOI: 10.1093/jhps/hnw007.
  • Mohan, N., Gupta, V., Sridharan, B., Mellott, A., Easley, J., Palmer, R. … & Detamore, M., 2015. Microsphere-based gradient implants for osteochondral regeneration: a long-term study in sheep. Regenerative Medicine, 10(6), pp. 709-728. DOI: 10.2217/rme.15.38.
  • Kim, J., Cho, H., Young, K., Park, J., Lee, J. & Suh, D., 2015. In vivo animal study and clinical outcomes of autologous atelocollagen-induced chondrogenesis for osteochondral lesion treatment. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research, 10(1). DOI: 10.1186/s13018-015-0212-x.
  • Watanabe, A., Boesch, C., Anderson, S., Brehm, W. & Varlet, P., 2009. Ability of dgemric and t2 mapping to evaluate cartilage repair after microfracture: a goat study. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 17(10), pp. 1341-1349. DOI: 10.1016/j.joca.2009.03.022.
  • Hevesi, M., Bernard, C., Hartigan, D., Levy, B., Domb, B. & Krych, A., 2019. Is microfracture necessary? acetabular chondrolabral debridement/abrasion demonstrates similar outcomes and survival to microfracture in hip arthroscopy: a multicenter analysis. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 47(7), pp. 1670-1678. DOI: 10.1177/
More Articles
All Articles