View Full Version : Man's Crushed Leg Saved With His Own Stem Cells

03-01-2010, 12:10 AM
Kent News
Andrew Kent

KENT NEWS: A pioneering technique using stem cells was used for the first time ever to save a man?s crushed leg ? and he has just returned to work.

Andrew Kent, 53, from Gillingham, was hit by a boulder while rock climbing in the Lake District in April, last year. Conventional surgery was unable to save his badly damaged leg, until a radical new idea was offered as a possible solution.

For the first time in Britain, doctors used a patient?s own stem cells to heal bones in a technique they believe could revolutionise orthopaedic operations.

Mr Kent was climbing with his son on Langdale Pike when a huge boulder fell on his right leg, resulting in devastating injuries. The shinbone had shattered, with parts poking through the skin near his ankle. In all, there were five horrific breaks.

He was taken to Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and underwent three operations to pin his bones back together.

But they refused to heal, and a more radical therapy was needed to prevent amputation. He was transferred to the Spire Alexandra Hospital in Chatham, closer to home. Surgeons told Mr Kent he could lose his leg unless they tried the new stem cell technique.

He said: ?I was given two choices. I asked what the surgeon thought was best and he said he wanted to try the stem cells. I was the first in the country at that time.?

Orthopaedic surgeon Anan Shetty removed stem cells from bone marrow in Mr Kent?s hip. These were mixed with a new collagen gel called Cartifill to make a paste, which was smeared into the fractures.

They finally fixed his leg in a metal cage to gently press the bones together. The cage was finally removed six months after the procedure.

Mr Shetty said: ?He?s really surprised us. This is an amazing technique. Mr Kent won?t be able to run for about a year, but after 18 months his bones will have healed completely. I?m sure he?ll be able to go back to rock climbing.?

Cartifill was invented by an orthopaedic surgeon from South Korea, Professor Seok Jung Kim, who has helped Mr Shetty pioneer a series of procedures. Prof Kim was present to watch the operation.

Cartifill has also been used in combination with stem cells to repair torn knee cartilage. The gel holds the stem cells against the bone, where they form a new layer of cartilage. Ten patients have been treated so far in Britain, with an 80 per cent success rate.

Cost is always a factor in medicine, but this technique only costs a few hundred pounds.
Prof Kim said: ?Many people who have problems with knee injuries can now get effective, low-cost treatment.?

Mr Kent said: ?I?m doing pretty well. I saw Mr Shetty about three weeks ago and will see him again at the end of March.

?I am wearing a large plastic boot which allows me to go outside and have just started going back to work in the City, although I was tired at the end of the first week.

?The boot is a large grey plastic shell you slip your foot into. I still have to be extremely careful with my leg, but I?m getting around a bit. I go up to London on a coach which drops me off at Cannon Street and I get a taxi to the office.

?Life is going to get easier as time goes on. I haven?t been taking painkillers for at least six months ? I didn?t want to rely on them.

?The worst thing about the leg is that it?s swollen and tight. I?m not sure when the boot comes off. I?ll see Mr Shetty in March and he?ll check to see if there has been enough bone growth.

"I?ll need a few X-rays to see how it?s getting along. I see a physiotherapist every other week for exercises. If you keep still for an hour, you know it when you get up. It?s painful and things lock up. The bones are still fusing together.

?The doctors are happy with the progress.?
Mr Kent said it didn?t take too long for him to agree to the revolutionary treatment.

He said: ?I was given two options. I was told the bones had been apart for so long they had died. One was a lot of metal in my leg; the other was stem cells.

?Mr Shetty asked me what I thought and I asked him how he felt about doing it. He said he was happy to try it and I said I?d go along with whatever he decided. If it didn?t work, we still had the metalwork option.

?I asked how many people in the UK had it done. He said none. I asked how many in the world, and he said a few thousand in South Korea with Prof Kim.

?When I met the two, there was a little confusion. Mr Shetty thought he was stand by and watch Prof Kim do it, but Prof Kim told him: ?No, Mr Shetty, you are doing it?.

?I assume it was a joint effort. It was a pretty busy theatre that day with plenty of people there to see how it was done. It was a good training session.?

Asked how it was paid for, Mr Kent refused to be drawn, but did say the treatmeny was not yet available on the NHS.

He said: ?Mr Shetty wants to do 30 or so operations, write a paper and then put it forward for adoption on the NHS.

?It?s relatively cheap and speeds up the recovery process ? it?s hoped this will be cut by half. I?m pleased with the outcome for now.?