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Saturday, 9 November, 2002, 01:31 GMT
Self-healing surgery for arthritis
Surgery
The technique only requires keyhole surgery
Doctors have developed a way to treat even the most severe cases of oestoarthritis in the knee by encouraging the body to re-grow damaged tissue.

It involves stimulating the growth of cartilage, the tough, fibrous protective tissue found in the joints that prevents the bones from rubbing against each other.

When cartilage starts to break down, small particles crumble away and begin to rub constantly in the joint.

This friction leads to more and more cartilage being worn away, eventually leaving the bone without protection.

Dr Juergen Toft
Dr Juergen Toft has developed the technique
The new technique - called abrasion arthroplasty - works by completely removing all cartilage from damaged joints.

This stimulates the body to produce a completely new layer of cartilage - a process that can be completed within three months.

The new technique has been pioneered by Dr Juergen Toft, at the International Alpha Klinik in Munich, Germany.

He estimates that the operation - the only current procedure that can restore cartilage to a large surface of the knee - helps people to stay active for 15 years longer.

It can be carried out using minimally invasive keyhole surgery techniques.

Blood supply

"Abrasion arthroplasty means that bare, bony surfaces in a joint can be re-surfaced utilising a tiny burr that removes the upper 1mm of dead bone and exposes the body's own blood supply.

"From this blood supply a blood clot is formed, and that clot over a period of three months transforms itself into a repair cartilage.

"That cartilage is doing basically the same job as the original cartilage.

Knee
Mobility is hugely improved
"Of course it is not exactly of the same quality, but it is good enough, and a lot better than nothing."

Severe osteoarthritis of the knee is mostly associated with people from 50 to 70 for whom a total knee replacement is unfortunately the only viable solution.

However, an increasing number of people as young as 30 are developing the condition following sports injuries.

These people are too young for a total knee replacement because the metal implant leads to a very inactive, highly limited lifestyle.

See also:

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