It is not an unreasonable question to ask – “why don’t we replace damaged ligaments with a stronger man-made material?” After all, technology has an answer for everything!
Well, the issues and implications of using an artificial graft to replace a damaged anterior cruciate ligament were famously highlighted in Australia just three years ago.
It seemed like the holy grail of ligament replacement had been found – only 12 weeks after undergoing surgery for severe ACL damage, an Aussie Rules footballer felt fit enough to play in a Grand Final and featured on the winning team. As a result the Australian surgeons were inundated with hundreds of requests for the same procedure.
Unfortunately a few months after the apparent “miracle cure” the footballer’s knee had failed again! The artificial grafts were not stretching and moving with the mechanical requirements of the knee and they eventually frayed and snapped.
At Basingstoke I am proud to be at the forefront of an technique which we have called Ligament reinforcement.. Here we augment a ligament reconstruction or a ligament repair with a very strong thin artificial polyester “FibreTape”. This allows the natural ligament to heal and minimises the risk of stretching of the reconstruction or repair.
The tape itself has been around for some time, with significant use worldwide ( Over 700,000 Fibretapes have been implanted in the last 7 years) but it has mainly been utilised by surgeons to help repair damaged shoulders and for foot & ankle procedures.
We have now pioneered a technique for the knee whereby a small loop of the tape is incorporated with the damaged ligament providing a supplementary support for the natural healing process.
Our research has shown that, where possible, supporting and encouraging the natural regeneration of the existing tissue has a much higher success rate than replacement.
Using this process we are also able to get our patients back on their feet again in a significantly shorter time frame.
There is no need to remove the tape once the ligament has repaired itself as it demonstrates no further inconvenience.
Having used the procedure regularly for the last three years we have collated a wealth of data which provides evidence of the efficacy of this approach.