Every year in the United States, several thousand children suffer a torn ACL. That's the large stabilizing ligament on the inside of the knee. The surgery to repair the tear is controversial in pediatric patients because it involves potential injury to the growth plate. But newer, less invasive surgery techniques may make it possible to repair the damage without creating more damage.
Surgeon Dr. Samuel Carter says a conservative approach without surgery puts kids at risk too. "We learned there was a lot of re-injury. Kids would go back to the sport, tear their meniscus, because the knee was unstable and we learned that damage is much worse than taking a risk of perhaps damaging the growth plate."
13-year-old Luke Hunt tore his ACL playing football. Without surgery, "I would take the risk, I would still play football," he said. Instead, Dr. Carter performed a less invasive surgery in terms of injury to the growth plate.
"There is still some trauma to the growth plate, we try to minimize that by keeping the holes very small and the angles close to perpendicular to the growth plate. And using grafts that are soft tissue and not bone, and the soft tissue grafts tend not to cause the growth plate to arrest or to stop growing" Dr. Carter said.
The early data on this type of repair is encouraging. "The early data shows good stability of the knees with very minimal or low percentages of growth plate injuries or other complications" Dr. Carter said.
After nine months on the bench, Luke returned to football with a much stronger knee, which will hopefully prevent a more damaging injury in the future.
"It's not all about returning to sports, even though it is a big part of what we do because we do know that athletes want to get back to their sport, but we're also looking out for the long term health of their knee, trying to avoid them getting arthritic changes in their 30's or 40's, be a life long problem," said Carter.
Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.
1115 Mt. Auburn Road
Closed Captioning Contact: