Chondrocytes isolated from human fetal epiphyseal cartilage were seeded under mixed conditions into 15-mm-diameter polyglycolic acid (PGA) scaffolds and cultured in recirculation column bioreactors to generate cartilage constructs. After seeding, the cell distributions in thick (4.75 mm) and thin (2.15 mm) PGA disks were nonuniform, with higher cell densities accumulating near the top surfaces. Composite scaffolds were developed by suturing together two thin PGA disks after seeding to manipulate the initial cell distribution before bioreactor culture. The effect of medium flow direction in the bioreactors, including periodic reversal of medium flow, was also investigated. The quality of the tissue-engineered cartilage was assessed after 5 weeks of culture in terms of the tissue wet weight, glycosaminoglycan (GAG), total collagen and collagen type II contents, histological analysis of cell, GAG and collagen distributions, and immunohistochemical analysis of collagen types I and II. Significant enhancement in construct quality was achieved using composite scaffolds compared with single PGA disks. Operation of the bioreactors with periodic medium flow reversal instead of unidirectional flow yielded further improvements in tissue weight and GAG and collagen contents with the composite scaffolds. At harvest, the constructs contained GAG concentrations similar to those measured in ex vivo human adult articular cartilage; however, total collagen and collagen type II levels were substantially lower than those in adult tissue. This study demonstrates that the location of regions of high cell density in the scaffold coupled with application of dynamic bioreactor operating conditions has a significant influence on the quality of tissue-engineered cartilage. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.