Microfracture and Osteochondral Autograft Transplantation Are Cost-effective Treatments for Articular Cartilage Lesions of the Distal Femur

D. Josh Miller, Matthew V. Smith, Matthew J. Matava, Rick W. Wright, Robert H. Brophy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Background: Multiple techniques have been suggested for the treatment of isolated knee articular cartilage injuries. For smaller lesions (<2-5 cm2), microfracture and osteochondral autograft transplantation (OAT) are commonly used options. With an increasing focus on health care efficiency, analyzing the cost-effectiveness of treatment modalities has become increasingly important. Purpose/Hypothesis: The purpose of this study was to analyze the costs and outcomes of microfracture and OAT to compare their cost-effectiveness. The hypothesis was that microfracture would be more cost-effective. Study Design: Economic and decision analysis; Level of evidence, 2. Methods: A literature search was performed to identify studies comparing microfracture and OAT for the treatment of articular cartilage lesions of the distal femur in an adult population. Data from these studies including surgical time, failure rates, revision surgeries, outcome scores, and return to athletics were then incorporated into a constructed cost model using standard accounting methodology. The model was based on actual 2013 cost figures (in US dollars) for all procedure, operating room, and instrumentation costs. Results: Three studies, with a mean follow-up of 8.7 years, met the inclusion criteria of having evidence level 1 or 2 comparing microfracture and OAT. There was a cumulative 28.6% reoperation rate among patients undergoing microfracture compared with 12.5% among patients undergoing OAT. While both groups demonstrated significant improvements compared with preoperative levels, the only significant differences in any outcome score reported between the 2 procedures were the International Cartilage Repair Society (ICRS) score and patient-reported return to their previous sports activity level. While microfracture had a lower initial cost ($3100), these savings lessened over 1 year ($1843) and 10 years ($996). Microfracture was more cost-effective when comparing Lysholm and Hospital for Special Surgery scores, whereas OAT was more cost-effective when comparing Tegner and ICRS scores. There was a significantly lower cost for return to play in athletes after OAT versus microfracture at 1 year ($11,428 vs $16,953, respectively), 3 years ($12,856 vs $38,000, respectively), and 10 years ($32,141 vs $60,799, respectively). Conclusion: Published level 1 and 2 clinical studies with a 10-year follow-up demonstrated that the net cost and cost-effectiveness of microfracture and OAT are comparable for the treatment of isolated articular cartilage lesions of the distal femur. Clinical Relevance: Given similar clinical outcomes, microfracture and OAT are both viable, cost-effective first-line treatment options for these injuries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2175-2181
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 3 2015


  • OAT
  • cost analysis
  • cost-effectiveness
  • microfracture
  • osteochondral


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