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Innovative ACL reconstruction surgery helps athletes recover faster

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FRANKLIN -- The dreaded torn ACL is an all-too-common injury among athletes. Green Bay Packers' Alex Green and Andrew Quarless suffered the season-ending injury last year. Now, thanks to a breakthrough medical procedure, an orthopedic surgeon is getting athletes back to the game!

When Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose suffered a torn ACL during the NBA playoffs, and the Bulls' run towards a championship came crashing down with him.

The ACL is one of the major ligaments in the knee that connects the thigh bone, or femur, to the shin bone, or tibia. It's critical to the stability of the knee during sports that require cutting, such as basketball, football and soccer.

"The original ACL reconstructions failed, most of them, way back in the 70s. Then, over time, the patellar tendon was found, discovered and used, and it was very effective," Dr. Brian McCarty said.

Dr. McCarty is an orthopedic surgeon with Midwest Orthopedic Specialty. He says while traditional ACL repair has a high success rate, there's also a high rate of arthritis within 10 to 15 years. However, there is a new method to combating this injury.

"What we did is, if you look at a standard ACL reconstruction, the graft is very, very vertical between the tibia and the femur bones, and what we wanted to do was more anatomical -- more like it was supposed to be. What we did is we started doing anatomic single-bundle ACL reconstruction, where we put the graft more laterally, where it really is," Dr. McCarty said.

Although the ACL is referred to as one ligament, it consists of two functional bundles.

"What's changed so dramatically, other than doing it as an anatomic reconstruction is that now, we can make both of these bundles, and that's where the innovation has come in. I designed some guides that had allowed us to do the same procedure, except now we can put both bundles back in, and this is as close to normal as we've ever seen with ACL reconstruction," Dr. McCarty said.

Dr. McCarty says he isn't the first to do double-bundle ACL reconstruction, but he is a pioneer in the field.

"As far as I know, we're the first ones to have this technique, to do an anatomic double-bundle, where we don't rely on a guide. We actually put the ligament right where your ligament was, and that is what is so exciting about this new technique," Dr. McCarty said.

Alyssa Loepfe was a standout soccer player headed to MSOE when she tore her ACL. She and her family connected with Dr. McCarty, and chose the anatomic double-bundle reconstruction.

"I was off balance and I stepped, and then my knee went, like, inward, and I just heard a 'pop,' and I fell kind of on my stomach, and I just remember feeling my bottom half of my leg not connected to my top half of my leg," Loepfe said.

"I want to play soccer in college and be very active, because I've always been very active. By doing the double-bundle the stability of my knee would be much greater than if I just did a single bundle," Loepfe said.

"The rehabs are much quicker than they were several years ago. The healing process is a lot faster. With the surgical procedures, they're less invasive and they're making smaller incisions,"

"I can't wait for that next doctor's appointment to come because I feel like I'm already ready to start running and doing all of the activities I used to be able to do before I tore my ACL, so it's amazing how quickly I've come back," Loepfe said.

"Our responsibility to our patients is to always make things better, and what we are tryign to do with this is offer a better solution to a problem that is so common, and hopefully in the long term, these patients don't see the problems that many of us have seen," Dr. McCarty said.

Dr. McCarty is one of a handful of physicians performing a new procedure for knee arthritis, which may delay replacement surgery.

CLICK HERE for more information on ACL surgery via Midwest Orthopedic Specialty's website.