Stem Cell Treatment Saves Climber's Leg

by Adam Roy Dec 17, 2009
A British man who faced amputation after a climbing accident will keep his leg, thanks to a new stem cell procedure.

WHILE ANDREW KENT won’t be able to run on his newly mended leg for about a year, orthopedic surgeon Anan Shetty told Sky News that after 18 months, Kent’s bones “will have healed completely.”

“I’m sure he’ll be able to go back and rock climb again,” said Shetty.

Saved from amputation

For a while, Kent’s prognosis wasn’t quite so peachy. In April, Kent was climbing with his son in northeast England’s Lake District when a falling boulder crushed his right leg, breaking it in five places.

The injury was so severe that doctors at the Carlisle hospital where Kent was treated were unable to successfully rejoin the bones. When the leg became infected, it appeared that amputation was fast becoming Kent’s only option.

“Receiving that news is pretty devastating,” Kent told the Daily Mail. “You think: ‘I don’t want to lose this foot. That would be horrendous’.”

A revolutionary treatment

Kent was later transferred to Spire Alexandra Hospital in Chatham. There, Dr. Shetty successfully fixed the wound, performing a procedure co-developed with South Korean surgeon Seok Jung Kim.

Surgeons filled cracks in the bone using a paste made from collagen gel and stem cells extracted from Kent’s own bone marrow. They then placed the leg in a metal cage designed to hold the bone fragments in place while they knitted.

Six months later, the cage has come off. Kent and his doctors say that they’ve already seen signs of recovery.

“I’m very pleased,” said Kent. “I can wiggle my toes and they are looking good.”

Besides fixing Kent’s shattered leg, Shetty and Kim’s technique is also being used to repair a much more common injury, the blown knee. The procedure, which costs significantly less than other knee surgeries, has been performed on ten patients so far, with an 80% success rate.

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