Osteochondral Autograft Transfer System (OATS)
Osteochondral Autograft Transfer System
Cartilage plays a major role in the functionality of our joints. It serves as a shock absorber, cushioning the bones in a joint during impact. It also acts as a soft material that pads the joints and allows them to move smoothly. Unfortunately, age, heavy activity, and certain conditions can cause damage to the cartilage, which leads to pain and stiffness in the joints. One way of treating this is by Osteochondral Autograft Transfer System, also known as OATS.
OATS is a relatively straightforward procedure that is often performed arthroscopically. It is a cartilage transfer procedure that involves taking cartilage from a less essential, non-weight bearing part of the knee and using it to replace the damaged cartilage. There’s another cartilage transfer procedure called mosaicplasty that works similarly. The difference is that mosaicplasty uses a collage of multiple small plugs of cartilage, whereas OATS uses just one or two large plugs.
Because it can be done with fewer plug transfers, OATS is sometimes the better option. However, this procedure is not for everyone. It’s best for those under fifty, who have damaged cartilage due to trauma as opposed to age. In these cases, a person is more likely to have plenty of healthy cartilage available to use in the transfer. Most of our athletic clients fall into this category, so it’s usually a good fit for them. These are typically athletes that are involved in sports with lots of pivoting,
like soccer, tennis, or basketball. The cartilage either wears down over time with excessive play, or with a sudden injury, like an ACL or meniscus tear.
OATS is done under general anesthesia. After an arthroscopic examination to assess the area, the surgeon will make a small hole in the damaged cartilage where the plug will go. Then, they will take the plug of cartilage from the healthy part of the knee and implant it into the hole. After an OATS procedure, the transferred cartilage will grow into the damaged cartilage, ultimately resolving the patient’s knee pain.
We’ve seen many athletes recover from OATS feeling much better than before. Recovery does take time, though, sometimes up to nine months. Taking your time with rehabilitation after the surgery is essential to getting the most out of it. Our team at MOTUS has had a lot of first-hand experience in helping athletes through carefully designed physical therapy programs for complete rehabilitation from a cartilage transfer.