04 October 2010
ByAppeared in BioNews 578
A pioneering technique that uses stem cells to rebuild damaged tissue and generate new bone growth has been used by surgeons to treat a woman's broken legs.
Surgeons applied the patient's own stem cells in a gel mixture around the fractures during orthopaedic surgery to aid post-operative recovery. Stem cells were also used in a leg lengthening procedure. While it is not the first time stem cells have been used in orthopaedic surgery, it is believed to be the first time they have been used in leg lengthening procedures.
Diane Stuttard suffered two broken legs after being hit by a car while walking home in 2001 and was told by doctors that her left leg would need to be amputated.
She contacted Mr Anan Shetty, an orthopaedic surgeon reported to have used stem cells in his treatments, and underwent surgery at the private Alexandra Hospital in Chatham in Kent where doctors operated on her fractured tibia and fibula.
They extracted stem cells from bone marrow taken from her pelvis, which were mixed with a gel to help keep the cells in place. The surgeons reported new bone forming around the fracture within a few days. Surgeons also lengthened her leg by cutting the bone and slowly extending each end. A mixture of stem cells was injected around the cut and the leg was extended using an orthopaedic scaffold.
Both Mr Shetty and Diane are optimistic about her chances of making a good recovery. Diane told Sky News: 'I was advised to have the leg amputated by the surgeon in Leeds, but thankfully I said I wanted to wait until I had exhausted all avenues. I'm glad I did because this stem cell technique has come up and now it's my chance to get it right.
'It would be absolutely amazing to walk down the street without crutches and get back to some form of normality'.
The doctors and patient will have to wait 18 months before they can be sure the leg has healed.