Vt. hospital included in knee surgery clinical trial

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Anyone dealing with pain while walking, or even sitting down, will tell you it's a constant headache. Now some local surgeons are exploring a new option to help more people with knee problems.

"It's six weeks on crutches, possibly eight weeks before weight bearing," said Keri-Anne Lesure. It's a headache for this Jeffersonville mother of two. But she says that's nothing compared to what she could have gone through. "It hurt to walk, go upstairs. I waited until my son was six weeks old, then I went to Mansfield. They found through MRI results I was missing cartilage."

It's not clear what led to her knee problems, but the avid snowboarder says her time on the slopes may not have helped. Doctors offered her to be part of a clinical trial and undergo surgery -- the first patient to try it in Vermont.

"The procedure was really easy," Lesure said.

"Once the cartilage is gone, what do we do? In the past had techniques to mitigate some of the symptoms," said Dr. Bryan Huber, an orthopedic surgeon at Copley Hospital. He says when cartilage breaks down there are temporary fixes, but none long term. That's why he's hoping this new procedure will do the trick. "I was approached to look at this new technology and I said yes."

Here's how it works. Doctors drill a hole in the knee, allowing cells to pour in while also filling the gap with a hydro gel. Between six months to a year, the hydro gel deteriorates and the cells that grew over time become a type of cartilage, hopefully replacing what was once there.

"Could it be monumental? Sure. Do we have to study it and continue to follow it? Absolutely," Dr. Huber said.

Vermont is one of 10 centers across the country involved in this clinical trial. Lesure will be monitored closely over the next couple of years. She believes the risk was worth it. "Doing this I hope gives me better results, so next year I can actually be out on the slopes," she said.

The surgery is only meant for specific patients with isolated cartilage defects.