William is an active 10 year old and a keen rugby player. In Spring 2017 he injured his knee during a rugby tackle. An initial examination and X-ray suggested he had fractured his knee, however his eagle eyed GP thought there was more to the injury and referred him for an MRI, which confirmed a torn ACL.
William’s mum Claire set about finding the best treatment for her son. Claire explains:
“I tracked down a surgeon in Boston who was carrying out a procedure called an ACL bridge on young children and using stem cells. It was unfortunately too long after William’s accident for that to be suitable. It lead us and our local GP to track down Professor Wilson, who performs a brand new treatment in the UK using a parent’s ligament to repair their child’s ligament. We were so relieved to know something could be done for William.”
Professor Wilson met William with his parents, and was initially hopeful that he would be able to repair his ACL. After a careful examination under anaesthetic and an arthroscopy, sadly there was insufficient tissue to do so.
The next option Professor Wilson discussed was the reconstruction of the ligament using a parental donation. Professor Wilson saw this procedure, pioneered by Dr Leo Pinczewski in Sydney, Australia, and its exceptional results during his fellowship. When he returned to the UK, he decided to set up a service to provide this innovative technique.
He explains this revolutionary approach in more details:
“While hamstrings grow in length, they don’t thicken and can remain very thin, especially in small children. However, using a parent’s hamstring to repair an ACL injury has been shown to reduce the failure rate from 30% to less than 10%. For the children I have operated on, surgery has been 100% successful.”
Professor Wilson explains what he did in William’s case:
“What we do in this surgery is use a hamstring from one of the parents. So, in William’s case, I first operated on his father and took a single hamstring. This provides us with a very nice-sized tissue in terms of its length and diameter. Once we had sown up the small wound in William’s father, William was then brought through from the anaesthetic room and we implanted the tissue as the new ACL. The procedure went extremely well and I am delighted to say that William is doing extremely well too. He is now two months down the line and he has done well from the start. He had very little pain after the surgery and was able to leave the following day with a good range of motion and minimal swelling.”
Within a few weeks William was off his crutches and he is walking 2 months after surgery with a completely normal gait without any pain and without any swelling.
William’s mum concludes:
“We had no idea that this surgery is available – there must be so many children whose ligament damage goes unnoticed. We’d like other children to have access to this treatment so they can return to full activity. Whilst William’s injury has meant he can’t run or play contact sports at the moment, he fully intends to return to rugby at some point and plans to be playing cricket by next summer.”