Every year about 400,000 Americans tear their ACL ligament and for the past several decades there's pretty much only one way to fix the injury - if at all - reconstruction surgery. As our Health Reporter Erin Billups explains one New York City doctor has pioneered a new approach with extremely promising results.
The way Erika Larose is hopping you wouldn't think that just three months ago she had surgery to repair tears to her ACL and MCL ligaments in her knee.
"After about, I'd say a month I was jogging and I was cycling," she recalls.
Normally would take about four to six months after an ACL reconstruction surgery to be able to jog and cycle, but Larose didn't have the traditional surgery.
After the avid skier injured her knee during a day of runs on a Colorado mountain - her orthopedist father got her an appointment with Dr. Gregory Difelice a sports traumatology and joint reconstruction surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
He confirmed her ACL was torn off the bone, but it was still intact.
"The current practice is to take the entire ligament, take it out of the knee and replace it with a piece of dead tissue from your patella tendon or your hamstring tendon," explains Difelice.
Instead, what DiFelice did was simply reattach the ligament to the bone using minimally invasive techniques.
He stumbled upon the method while treating severe knee injuries at Jacobi Medical Center - a solution for patients there that didn't have the time and resources to properly rehabilitate their injuries.
"What I'm saying is let's try and repair the tears that have a fighting chance to heal and then use the big surgery for the ones that don't," says Difelice.
In an initial study published in the Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery DiFelice shows that 10 out of 11 of his patients with the same ACL tear as Larose, had similar if not better, outcomes compared with traditional reconstruction surgery.
He's since performed some type of knee repair on more than 60 patients with a 90 percent success rate.
"They recover in a fraction of the time. You keep all your native tissue, so you've got good blood supply to heal things and you keep all the nerve endings that are in that ligament," notes Difelice.
"It's encouraging more than anything. I only really struggled for maybe a week and then after that my quality of life was basically back to normal," says Larosa.