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YOUR HEALTH: Building new cartilage inside your body

BALTIMORE, Maryland – 52-year old Sheri Beach and her family love to hike.  But during a typical trek near her home, a water- logged trail almost put her out of commission for good.

"I took a step and stepped into a mud puddle. my foot went one way. my ankle went the other and I heard the crack."

It took hours for the paramedics to reach her.   Sheri's family tried to keep her leg elevated to stop the swelling, but the damage was done.

"By the time we got to the hospital and they were able to reduce it, it had been over four hours," she recalled.  "The blood supply had been compromised."

Surgeons repaired breaks in Sheri's leg, but the talus bone near the ankle never recovered.  A hole much like a pothole developed.

Instead of major surgery to fuse the ankle, orthopedic surgeon Dr. John Campbell suggested a newer technique: a graft called biocartilage.

"It's a form of cartilage from cadavers that is processed and morcellized and ground into dust and it's combined with cells from the patient," explained Dr. Campbell, who works at the Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Baltimore's Mercy Medical Center.

Surgeons insert the mixture to fill the damaged area.

"The easiest way is like patching a hole in drywall while the material is liquid and soft you can fit it in," said Dr. Campbell.   "It hardens and dries so it stays in the spot."

NEW TREATMENT:   BioCartilage extracellular matrix was designed to provide a reproducible, simple and inexpensive method to supplement traditional microfracture procedures.   BioCartilage functions as a tissue scaffold that the body's cells can attach to and produce new reparative cartilage tissue in the defect site.  (Source: https://www.arthrex.com/orthobiologics/biocartilage-micronized-cartilage-matrix)

Sheri says she went from being in constant pain to regaining almost full use of her foot.  Not only is she hiking again, but completing a two-day, 39 mile charity walk.

Dr. Campbell warns patients that they will need to be non-weight bearing for up to eight weeks after treatment.   It
can take six months to regain full mobility.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.