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BBC Wales's Health Correspondent Susie Phillips
"Surgeons the world over are keen to learn about the 'Welsh Plait'"
 real 28k

Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 11:57 GMT
Surgeon seeks salon skills

The "Welsh Plait" is already helping patients


Hairdressing skills have helped a Welsh surgeon develop a new way of replacing damaged knee ligaments.

A unique collaboration between an orthopaedic surgeon and a hairdresser has led to a new way of replacing damaged knee ligaments - with a plait of the patient's own hamstrings.

"I was in the living room watching my wife comb my daughter's hair," said surgeon John Fairclough who developed the technique.


Surgeon John Fairclough Surgeon John Fairclough's daughter gave him the idea
"I noticed that she was starting to plait it. I asked why and she said it was because of the split ends.

"It struck me then that there was a use that we could put that to in orthopaedics."

Dr Fairclough realised that plaiting the four strands of hamstrings - which surgeons use in rebuilding ligaments for injured knees - would make them stronger.

But to develop the plaiting technique, the surgeon turned to another expert.

Plaiting hair is everyday work for a hairdresser, but when Errol Willy went to the doctor with a bad knee he little suspected how he would eventually be helping orthopaedic patients.


Errol Willy Hairdresser Errol Willy worked on a four-strand technique
"He wanted advice on how to take a three-strand plait and turn it into a four-strand plait," said hairdresser Errol Willy.

"I went to his practice and showed him how to do the four-strand plait with four pieces of rope."

Over the past two years John Fairclough has developed a way of using his plaiting technique to create a new ligament.

During the first part of the operation the patients hamstrings are removed and then braided together.

The plait is then inserted into the knee to replace the damaged cruciate ligament.

It is a relatively quick and simple operation - most patients stay in hospital overnight and are back to normal within a fortnight.

There is already worldwide interest in the "Welsh Plait" and Dr Fairclough has most recently demonstrated his technique to an international conference in the Middle East.

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See also:
03 Nov 99 |  Health
Surgeons pioneer 'hands free' technology
31 Oct 99 |  Northern Ireland
Patients take heart from new procedure
16 Jun 99 |  Health
Surgery continues into robot age
Links to other Wales stories are at the foot of the page.


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