Mandy Chaput is constantly on the move keeping up with her two active young boys and her career as Director of Early Learning and School-Age Programs.
A few years ago, Mandy began experiencing pain in her left knee although she has never had an injury and is in her 30s, much younger than when age-related joint problems arise. It wasn’t long before she could no longer keep up with her active lifestyle. The pain became constant, keeping her up at night and causing popping and cracking during the day.
When Mandy sought medical attention, an MRI revealed that some of the cartilage in her knee was torn down to bone. Doctors told her that surgery would only make the condition worse and her only option was physical therapy.
“The thought of limiting my activity was not easy for me to grasp,” said Mandy. “I was not ready to throw in the towel on my knee.”
Luckily, Mandy found Dr. Peter Yeh, an orthopedic surgeon at MelroseWakefield Hospital, who is one of just a handful of surgeons in the region trained to perform a new cartilage regeneration procedure.
Known as membrane-induced autologous chondrocyte implantation, or MACI, the innovative technique uses a patient’s own cells to repair knee cartilage damage instead of a cleanup or debridement procedure, a marrow stimulation procedure, a donated cartilage-bone transplant or even the traditional metal or plastic devices used in knee-replacement surgery.
Dr. Yeh recommended MACI to Mandy. “Traditionally, there hasn’t been a good fix to restore torn cartilage. It is normally removed if it continues to bother the patient. However, the absence of the cartilage essentially creates a defect that can continue to cause pain, soreness and swelling,” explained Dr. Yeh.
“Cartilage restoration with MACI can preserve a joint and delay joint replacement for many patients. This surgical technique offers a viable solution for younger adults and athletes who want to continue their active lifestyle,” said Dr. Yeh.
The MACI procedure is comprised of two steps. First, the surgeon takes a sample of cells from the torn cartilage. This sample is sent off to a lab where, over the course of four to six weeks, the patient’s cartilage cells are replicated and placed onto a membrane. The second part of the procedure involves attaching the cartilage cells back into the knee, where it will mature over the successive 10-12 months.
“There are many benefits to the MACI procedure,” said Dr. Yeh. “Rebuilding the cartilage will keep the cushion between the bones intact, which could reduce the risk of developing arthritis in the future. Also, by using and regenerating your own cells, you eliminate the possibility of your body rejecting the new cartilage.”
Mandy recently completed the second part of the MACI procedure and has begun the rehabilitation process for her knee. “I’m looking forward to resuming my life and being pain-free,” said Mandy.