Cartilage Restoration for Tibiofemoral Bipolar Lesions Results in Promising Failure Rates: A Systematic Review

Arthrosc Sports Med Rehabil. 2021 Jun 24;3(4):e1227-e1235. doi: 10.1016/j.asmr.2021.03.020. eCollection 2021 Aug.


Purpose: The purpose of the present study is to systematically review the available literature for management of bipolar lesions within the tibiofemoral joint and determine whether tibiofemoral cartilage restoration is an effective treatment modality.

Methods: PubMed and MEDLINE databases were queried between 2000 and 2020 using the following keywords: "osteochondral" and "knee" and "microfracture," "autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI)," or "transplantation." Articles were reviewed for the presence of a bipolar or "kissing" tibiofemoral lesion and reported lesion size, concomitant procedures, failure rates, and time to failure.

Results: After screening 1,295 articles, there were 4 articles available for analysis and a total of 152 knees involving the management of bipolar tibiofemoral lesions. Age ranged from 14 to 60 years, and mean follow-up was between 12 and 240 months. There was 1 retrospective cohort study (36 knees) and 3 case series (mean, 38.7 ± 17.5 knees). There were 58 knees treated with bipolar osteochondral allograft (OCA) transplantation, 58 knees treated with bipolar ACI, 20 knees treated with femoral OCA and tibial debridement, and 16 knees treated with femoral OCA and tibial microfracture. There were 37 failures (24.3%): 16 patients (10.5%) were converted to unicompartmental or total knee arthroplasty, 4 restorative procedures (2.6%) were revised, and 8 patients (1.6%) had unsatisfactory outcomes only. The remaining 15 failures (9.9%) had an unspecified combination of objective failure. The mean rate of failure ranged between 0% and 44.1% (I 2 = 83.2%). The mean time to failure ranged between 2.7 and 4.1 years (I 2 = 79.1%).

Conclusions: Cartilage restoration, through both ACI and OCA, had failure rates between 0% and 44% in patients with bipolar lesions of the tibiofemoral compartment. Although a higher level of evidence is required to prove efficacy, the current study demonstrates midterm survivorship rates between 55% and 100%, which may delay the need for secondary arthroplasty.

Level of evidence: Level IV, systematic review of Level IV studies.

Publication types

  • Review