Mercy Health Physician and Orthopaedic Surgeon Able to Restore Damaged Knee Cartilage

(CINCINNATI; June 4, 2014) – Knee cartilage is the tough, fibrous substance that lets our knee joints glide comfortably and without friction – except when it doesn’t. Only a quarter of an inch thick, injuries and wear over time can damage the articular cartilage that lines our joints and the meniscus cartilage that acts as a shock absorber when we run, jump and do other activities. Without that protective sheath, exposed nerves in the knee make even small steps painful. Damage to knee cartilage can lead eventually to arthritis and some sufferers will have a joint replacement to ease their pain and restore their quality of life.

In 1994, Swedish physician Lars Peterson, MD developed a knee cartilage replacement procedure to stave off osteoarthritis and provide an alternative to joint replacement for the right patients. He used a patient’s own cells, which he extracted and grew in the lab over six to eight weeks. He then injected the cells into the damaged area under the protection of a small flap. Once there, the cells grew over the damaged spot, successfully replacing damaged cartilage over several months. Dr. Peterson shared his findings for the benefit of others.

“I was one of four doctors Peterson flew to Sweden to train in the procedure and bring it back to the U.S.,” says Mercy Health Physician Frank Noyes, MD, a nationally recognized knee expert and orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine who established the first Cartilage Restoration Center in the Tri-State region.

“This is one of the top problems I encounter in my practice. A cartilage injury can’t heal. While tendons, ligaments and muscles will heal, cartilage doesn’t have the ability to go into repair mode. Cartilage regeneration can be an alternative therapy for patients who otherwise may be facing a joint replacement.”

Dr. Peterson’s method – known as autologous cartilage implantation - remains a leading technique for replacing damaged cartilage. The word “autologous” denotes that the cells come from the patient.

“It works in about 70% of patients. In the remaining 30%, the replacement cartilage grows but breaks down over time, buying patients seven to 10 years of pain relief,” says Dr. Noyes, who has treated patients from all over the U.S. with this injury for 25 years. “This is something a younger patient – one who’s too young for joint replacement – might consider.”

Patients with less cartilage damage may be candidates for osteocartilage transfer, in which Dr. Noyes takes a piece of healthy cartilage from the patient and places it in the damaged area. Dr. Noyes also performs allogeneic transplants, in which the cartilage cells come from donors, and meniscus transplants.

“I’m transferring in a new meniscus for patients regularly,” says Dr. Noyes, who notes that the transplant comes from a cadaver and that the procedure has a 70% success rate. “Recently, I repaired a young patient’s articular cartilage using the autologous cartilage transplantation method and I also transplanted a new meniscus to replace her damaged one. This patient is a 21-year old college student and former volleyball player who had already worn out half of her knee joint after losing her meniscus seven years ago. I’m hopeful this procedure will carry her through her 30s without pain and then we can review our options, including joint replacement, at that time.”

Dr. Noyes practices from Mercy Health – Cincinnati SportsMedicine & Orthopaedic Center, Montgomery and is part of Mercy Health’s Dream Team of orthopaedic specialists. Medical journals have noted Dr. Noyes’ success rate in treating this injury and Dr. Noyes, a Best Doctors in America winner for 20+ years, provides talks and teaching sessions to orthopedic surgeons at national meetings. To find out more about Dr. Noyes and knee cartilage replacement or to make an appointment with Dr. Noyes, please call 513-794-8471.

Mercy Health Physicians, as well as physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers and locations of Mercy Health – Cincinnati SportsMedicine & Orthopaedic Center (CSMOC) and a partnership with Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine, comprise The Dream Team. The Dream Team includes 35 doctors practicing from 15 locations in neighborhoods throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Returning every patient to normal function as quickly, compassionately and safely as possible is the goal of Mercy Health’s Orthopaedics, Spine and Sports Medicine team. Together with physical therapists and athletic trainers, they provide comprehensive orthopaedic care for the foot and ankle, hand, wrist and elbow, hip, knee, shoulder, neck, back, joint replacement and sports-related concussion.

You can meet the team, learn more about their areas of specialty and find their office locations by visiting To find a Mercy Health physician in your neighborhood, or to learn about the services provided at Mercy Health, please visit or call 513-981-2222.