Richard Cunningham, MD, a board certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist has a clinical focus on injuries, conditions and treatment of the knee and shoulder. When a patient presents with knee cartilage damage, the Osteochondral Autograft Transfer System Procedure (OATS) may be indicated. Dr. Cunningham specializes in cartilage damage treatment and has advanced training in state of the art techniques such as the OATS procedure. Patients trust his skills and experience to provide a safe, effective treatment for knee cartilage damage, which is a very challenging problem.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Patients experiencing knee joint damage or osteoarthritis may be eligible for the OATS procedure. Symptoms can include:

  • Knee pain and swelling due to localized cartilage damage
  • Mechanical locking of knee caused by broken piece of cartilage or bone disrupting joint function (Osteochondritis dissecans/OCD)
  • Feelings of weakness or sudden giving way of the knee

Dr. Cunningham conducts a comprehensive exam for patients, to determine if the OATS procedure is the optimal treatment for a patient’s condition. This involves a complete health history, physical examination, and imaging studies. The decision to use OATS treatment is highly individualized as not every patient is a candidate for this procedure. Patient history, overall health and imaging findings will determine if one is a candidate for OATS. The ideal candidate for an OATS procedure to treat a cartilage defect in the knee are:

  • Focal cartilage defects, not generalized cartilage loss throughout the majority of the knee
  • Healthy underlying bone and not bone that has lost its blood supply
  • Intact ligaments and a stable knee
  • Neutral mechanical limb alignment, not excessively bow legged or knock kneed

The Osteochondral Autograft Transfer System Procedure

Dr. Cunningham’s advanced training and specialized experience with the OATS procedure makes him highly qualified to diagnose and treat knee joint cartilage damage with this complicated procedure. The OATS procedure involves:

  • Harvesting a core of healthy cartilage and underlying bone from a non-weight bearing area of the patient’s knee joint.
  • Preparation of the damaged area by removing a same sized core of damaged cartilage and underlying bone, thus creating a socket in which to transplant the autograft.
  • Transplanting and press fitting the harvested core of cartilage and bone to the prepared socket in the knee joint.

Recovery and Rehabilitation

Dr. Cunningham and his expert care team closely monitor OATS surgery patients from post-operative recovery through rehabilitation and a return to an active lifestyle. Pain medication and the use of crutches are prescribed. Avoiding all weight-bearing on the treated leg is required. This may range from 6 to 12 weeks, depending on the size and location of the graft. Some patients may require a brace to immobilize and protect the knee joint during the healing process.

Dr. Cunningham’s patients understand the critical contribution of his prescribed physical therapy program. The physical therapist will develop an individualized recovery program to target and improve:

  • Swelling reduction
  • Knee joint range of motion
  • Gentle muscle activation and strengthening

Therapy begins soon after surgery. There is a slow progression of weightbearing after the graft starts to incorporate. Gradually, the patient is encouraged to increase activity. Strengthening and overall fitness is then gained such that the patient is able to return to the lifestyle and activities they enjoy.

Patients experiencing symptoms of knee cartilage damage are typically quite limited in their activities, but they can be helped. It is important for patients to seek the care of a highly experienced orthopedic knee specialist like Dr. Cunningham. His advanced training and surgical expertise with the OATS procedure, among many other advanced procedures, ensure an optimum outcome for patients with this complicated condition. In Vail, CO (970) 476-2451, in Frisco (970) 668-3633, and Edwards (970) 569-3240.

Rediscover your inner athlete

Dr. Cunningham specializes in the treatment of knee, shoulder, and sports injuries.