Research Aims To Heal ACL Surgery Faster
May 31 -- Nearly 100,000 Americans undergo ACL knee surgery each year. These torn ligaments are notoriously slow to heal. Now, innovative new research in animals may soon help people back on their feet in no time.
Tony Riggs is a dad on the go. Recently though a torn knee ligament caused him constant pain. Surgery was a success, but it kept him out of the game.
Tony Riggs, knee surgery patient: "Anywhere between four and six months before I felt pretty much normal."
Patients like Tony might someday avoid surgery thanks to an experimental procedure to repair damaged knees. No knife -- just a needle!
Martha Murray, MD, orthopedic surgeon: "The hope is that we'll have a procedure that's really less invasive for patients, much easier on them and they'll go on to having a better knee for the rest of their life. That's really our goal and what we're working towards."
Researchers are using collagen gel similar to the collagen first used as a wrinkle filler in the early 1980's. They hope this material will act as a bridge or scaffolding to help other cells then fill in a torn ACL.
Researchers inject the collagen gel enriched with blood platelets into the tear. The gel gives cells something to crawl across and close the defect in the torn ligament.
Dr. Martha Murray: "If we can get that ACL to heal, that would really be a way of possibly restoring a much more normal biomechanics and function of the knee itself."
So far, it has worked in 75 percent of animals studied.
At six weeks, the gel-treated knees showed twice the ability to heal defects and had a 40 percent increase in mechanical strength compared to just 14 percent in the control group.
While the animal studies have been promising, researchers hope to begin human trials soon. And when they do, patients like Tony could get back on their feet a lot faster.
To learn where this collagen research is being done, see below:
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