PIONEERING surgeons at Basildon Hospital are carrying out groundbreaking operations to repair injured knees.
Two patients have now undergone the procedure, which uses stem cell bone marrow to regenerate damaged cartilage – the tough, rubbery substance between the shinbone and thighbone which acts as a shock absorber.
The operation, which is most successful on younger people, also has the potential to prevent arthritis.
The only other hospital in Britain to carry out the procedure, which was developed at the Rizzoli Orthopaedic Institute in Italy, is Southampton.
A number of Italian footballers have already undergone the operation, which involves removing bone marrow from the pelvis, extracting the stem cells and mixing them together with a special glue, before injecting the damaged part of the knee.
In more than 80 per cent of cases, results have been good to excellent.
Sean Symons, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Basildon Hospital, in Nethermayne, said: “It takes up to a year to know if it has been completely successful, but this ground-breaking procedure has passed the trial stage and is now a recognised treatment with excellent results in Britain and Italy.
“The most suitable patients are younger, with an isolated injury, usually caused by sport, but we will be operating on a woman in her fifties.
“We want to offer this new treatment to patients in Essex and the east of England who are suffering pain and disablement due to knee injuries, and allow them to get back to the healthy activities they enjoy.” Mr Symons, who has established a reputation for using innovative specialist techniques, travelled to the institute in Bologna to learn the procedure, and two more consultants will be trained there later this month.
Lucy Hudson, 25, a footballer who has played for Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace, is the latest patient to undergo surgery. She has had problems with her knee for the past decade, since she twisted it during a five-a-side tournament. Miss Hudson, from Basildon, was recently forced to stop playing football after getting her foot stuck in the ground and twisting it, leaving her with a limp.
She said: “Dr Symons told me about the new operation where they use stem cells. I know it is really new, but I am in so much pain I am willing to try anything. “I am a striker. In the last game I played, I scored four goals and they really want me back. “I really want to play again because I love it so much, but I would just be happy to be able to walk without a limp.”
Miss Hudson is now recovering from her operation on Monday, and will undergo a follow- up appointment and physiotherapy.
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