BATON ROUGE, LA — A breakthrough medical treatment happening right here in Louisiana is showing big results. The goal is to eliminate knee surgery.
"I couldn't walk. I was limping. It was to the point where I couldn't stand a normal function anymore and it was just no way to live," said Kerri McDonald, a patient in the knee cartilage regeneration clinical trial.
Two years ago Kerri McDonald injured her knee playing basketball in high school and almost a year after a reconstruction surgery; she was back to the beginning.
"The doctor told us that after looking at the scans and looking at Kerri he said that if he was not looking at this 19-year-old he would have swore he was looking at an 80-year-old woman that needed a knee replacement," said Lea McDonald, Kerri’s mother.
"She couldn't play basketball anymore, couldn't run could do a lot of the things she wanted to do...was forced to become more inactive, unfortunately for a patient at that age there are not a lot of good options," said Dr. Joseph Broyles, the surgeon involved in the trial.
But Dr. Broyles knew a cutting edge clinical trial he was doing could possibly save Kerri any more pain.
"Well the holy grail in orthopedics is to re-grow cartridge, because that's what these patients have," noted Dr. Broyles.
Dr. Broyles drills holes into the knee, so the cartilage can re-grow.
“It’s micro drilling surgery and that cartilage re-grows but it's not durable cartilage, it's fragile cartilage. It's brittle. It will break and wont hold up. So when you see the professional players come back for the procedure, they may come back for a season, maybe two, but that’s it,” said Dr. Patrick Stagg, another doctor involved with the trial about athletes who have normal knee procedures.
Dr. Stagg then uses the patient’s bone marrow and does a series of injections with those stem cells to help the cartilage re grow back to normal.
And so far, after over a year, most of the patients have seen success, including Kerri.
"She's got some cartilage that's formed the central ridge of her knee cap," said Dr. Broyles.
But the procedure is only half the battle. Kerri had to do hours of rigorous physical therapy to get back on her feet again.
"Blood, sweat and tears are worth being able to walk and being able to be normal again," said Kerri.
Kerri would have never imagined she would be able to walk again.
"Now I can run I can walk. I can walk up stairs. I can run up stars. I am a kid again! I feel like a teenager like I should be."
Kerri won't need a knee replacement if her cartilage continues to grow normally.
"They have opened up so many opportunities for me. I will not be in an wheelchair, thankfully for them," noted Kerri.
With the help from Dr. Broyles and Dr. Stagg’s trial, Kerri's scans are looking a little more her age.
To prove the procedure is effective right now they would need to perform a biopsy on their current patients but choose not to because it will just interfere with the recovery. So, after enough results are collected, Dr. Stagg and Dr. Broyles hope this will catch on and start to be used across the country.
Right now it's only happening in Baton Rouge and on the other side of the world in Malaysia.