Meet the Surgeon (Mon, Mar 14th)

On Monday March 14th Kammy took me to meet the Surgeon who would operate on my knee.  I’d heard some people comment that orthopedic surgeons tend to have horrible bedside manner so I was curious to see what mine would be like.  The Surgeon was interesting, and completely willing to discuss whatever I brought up.  Nice, and more importantly not horrible by any definition.  He talked over the MRI and X-Rays with us, discussed once again the fact that my ACL is disrupted, and that it would take about 5 or 6 weeks for my leg to heal up and swelling to go down enough for surgery.  The plan would be that I’d continue physical therapy and RICE, come back in 3 weeks and at that point we’d set a date for surgery.

There was something else too: As he was explaining the surgical process he told us that there are 3 choices for where the tissue comes from to create the new ACL.  Two come from my own body and one comes from ‘dead guy tissue’ as he put it.  The two choices from my tissue are either patellar tendon or hamstring tendon.  If it’s dead-guy it’s patellar tendon.

the gamble

it's always a gamble

I like to find a professional I can trust and then follow his advice.  So, I asked the doctor which he’d recommend.  He was hesitant to suggest one over the other…said it was truly my decision.  So I asked what some of the advantages of each are.  He explained that with ‘dead guy’ tissue there is a 10% chance of rejection and 8 month recovery.  With my own tissue, a 5% chance of rejection and 6 month recovery.  He also pointed out that I’d be able to get back to normal life more quickly with ‘dead guy’ graft; days instead of up to a month before I was up and about.  He didn’t make any mention of zombies at all…

Next I tried a different tactic; I asked him which he’d choose if it were his own ACL being reconstructed, but I was in for a surprise…he told me he’d elect not to have the surgery at all! I have to say that threw me for a loop for a minute.  Then he went on to explain.  He’s sedentary, he goes to the gym (because he knows he should), he goes to work, and he sits on the couch.  He continued by saying that he even knew a few active people who elected to forgo the surgery; that by exercising and being careful they could do lots of things without an ACL.  Downhill skiing, playing soccer, etc. didn’t really count among the ‘lots of things’ however.  Then he did say that for ‘guys my age’ he’d, if forced, suggest ‘dead guy’ tissue just because we have a life to get back to.  He also said that if for some reason the tissue didn’t take that the surgery could be re-performed…there would just be a time set-back.  Also, he mentioned that even if I chose to use my own tissue that there would be donor tissue standing by in case of any mishap.

Then we talked about the really amazing part.  ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament, yet all of the choices for tissue grafts are tendons.  It turns out that ligaments cannot be grafted, but tendons, when grafted into places where ligaments belong, gradually get converted to ligaments by our bodies over the course of several months.  Is that not the coolest thing ever?  (Well, OK, there are definitely cooler things, but that is amazing!)

With that he sent me of to continue my PT and consider my options…

Posted by Greg on June 5th, 2011 :: Filed under ACL Files
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2 Responses to “Meet the Surgeon (Mon, Mar 14th)”

  1. Chrissy
    June 8th, 2011

    No surgery is an option, that’s what Murray and Sue and Jim said too. In fact I hurt my knee in January, I heard two pops, then pain, then not much pain. And I kept skiing for an hour or so till lift close. (It was Tahoe, How could I resist?) They said that I could have blown my ACL. Crazy, but I’ve been very active this spring and summer and now it seems to really be getting much better. I know I’m lucky! I will be setting my bindings to cream puff from now on.

  2. Greg
    June 9th, 2011

    Hey Chrissy,
    In my case it was very clearly a blown ACL (completely separated)…my knee puffed up very quickly & I couldn’t bear down on it at all without it giving out…Also, once it started to heal up (pre surgery) I could feel it being loose…hard to describe but when I relaxed my muscles I could feel the knee joint pull apart (feels worse than it sounds) and become unstable. The best news is that it feels way more solid now post-surgery. It sounds to me from what you describe that you might’ve torn or bruised something in your knee, I’m sure glad it’s feeling better!

    Awesome that you got to catch up with Sue and Murray too…I miss those guys!

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