A Tale of Two Knees
This is the story of one woman, two knees, and two very different treatment plans.
Back in 2013, a 72-year old woman began experiencing limited range of motion and pain in her left knee and went to see her orthopedic surgeon. Having spent most of her life skiing, playing tennis, running and hiking, it came as little surprise that her diagnosis included osteoarthritis and a torn meniscus, among other conditions. The recommended treatment plan: A complete knee replacement, which she ended up having at Stanford.
A few years later, the same woman began to experience similar symptoms in her right knee and went to see the same surgeon. The recommendation was also the same: a complete knee replacement.
This time however, rather than following the same course of action, she decided to consult with Marko Bodor, MD. Dr. Bodor told her that perhaps her torn meniscus was the main cause of her pain and if that was the case, there was a good chance that a biologic treatment might be effective instead of surgery. In Dr. Bodor’s experience, platelets, which adhere to and pull together collagen tears, have been surprisingly efficient at making symptomatic meniscus tears asymptomatic. How this works exactly is not known, but likely involves healing of tears in the outer third of the meniscus. Using ultrasound visualization to find the tear, he injected concentrated platelets into the tear and activated them with calcium chloride to ensure that they clot more rapidly in the presence of joint fluid, which could prevent adhesion.
As a result, her right knee has functioned beautifully and without pain for the now 78-year old woman who frequently walks on the beach, exercises in the gym regularly, and has been seen out on the dance floor at various functions across the Napa Valley. The only thing that seemingly limits her activity is the replaced titanium knee. It does hurt on occasion and she can’t kneel on it. It works fine, but not as well as her real, original bone and cartilage knee.
The replacement surgery in 2013 consumed her life for more than two months. There were weeks of planning and driving back and forth to Stanford for consultations with her doctor. In the days following the procedure, she experienced extreme pain and suffered from a terrible reaction to the pain medication. 3 days a week, she visited a physical therapist for one-hour appointments, and four days a week she performed therapeutic exercises at home. Eventually her left knee did reach 110-120 degrees of flex but it would never be quite the same as before. She experiences occasional nerve pain and a slight loss in her mobility. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to improve the performance of the titanium knee.
The Tale of Two Knees offers us an interesting look into how the advances being made in regenerative, biologic treatments, like platelet rich plasma, are having a profound impact on the lives of everyday people. Of course, not all knees are alike and not all injuries can currently be treated effectively with regenerative therapies. The rapidity with which these innovations are happening does hold a very promising look into the future of orthopedic medicine.
A Tale of Two Knees also offers an exceptional timeline for how quickly the world of medicine is advancing and delivering new innovative treatments that work with the body’s own repair mechanisms to promote healing. In 2013, the regenerative therapy wasn’t an option.
Through the diligent and time- consuming research of the team at Napa Medical Research Foundation, innovations are being made that will continue to improve and will provide more effective, less invasive treatments in the years ahead for conditions of the spine, nerves, joints, tendons, and ligaments.
Reduce Pain. Increase Mobility + Function. Improve Quality of Life.
All the research conducted through the Napa Medical Research Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is fully funded through generous donations received from individuals and family foundations.