Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation, commonly known as ACI, is a surgical procedure that treats cartilage damage caused by injury or degeneration. This procedure is most often performed to treat the knee, although it can be used on other joints as well. It is used after non-surgical treatments have failed and cartilage damage is severe.
During the ACI procedure, your surgeon will use arthroscopy to identify the area of cartilage damage and remove a small sample of healthy cartilage cells. These cells are sent to a lab, where they are duplicated over the next four to six weeks. Once enough cells have been grown, a second procedure is scheduled, during which the new cartilage is implanted into the joint with the aid of a periosteal patch.
After this procedure, patients will need to undergo a physical therapy program in order to restore full function to the treated area. The ACI procedure is ideal for patients with only small areas of cartilage damage, who have significant pain and swelling, and who are not obese. This procedure is considered safe for most patients, although there is a risk of scar tissue formation, infection and knee stiffness developing after surgery.