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An alternative to joint replacement soon

M. Dinesh Varma

Meniscal transplant facility will benefit young patients


  • Cartilage harvested from 12 hours brain-dead patients or cadaver donors to be used
  • A meniscal transplant is likely to cost Rs. 1 lakh, while a total joint replacement over Rs. 2 lakhs
  • Blood bank to upgrade for preservation of cartilage harvests

    CHENNAI: A meniscal transplant facility coming up in the city will provide young patients with damaged knee ligaments and meniscal cartilage a viable and less expensive alternative to total joint replacement.

    The Multi-Organ Harvesting Network (MOHAN) Foundation, which already has an existing network with several leading hospitals for organ transplants, has agreed in principle to partner the Knee and Shoulder Clinic for the meniscal transplant programme. The transplant programme will use cartilage harvested from 12 hours brain-dead patients or cadaver donors.

    Shock absorbers

    The two menisci on each side of the knee joint act as shock absorbers. Without the protection of the meniscus, the surface of the knee joint degenerates rapidly and precipitates painful and disabling arthritis. Transplants are useful for patients who have damaged one or both menisci.

    "We are working out the modalities of the transplant programme and expect to be ready for the first procedure by August-end," said A.K. Venkatachalam, orthopaedic surgeon at Knee and Shoulder Clinic who has undergone training in tissue transplants from Belgium.

    The meniscal transplant facility will benefit young patients, particularly sportspersons and two-wheeler users who tear ligaments or damage the knee joint in mishaps. Recent research also shows that the transplant can help older patients with arthritis postpone the need for knee replacement.

    An allograft [from the same species] meniscal transplant can be performed by open or arthroscopic technique. It involves an incision not exceeding two inches and a day's hospitalisation.

    The cartilage harvested from one patient can help at least four patients with a single meniscus damaged. The transplant is likely to cost Rs. 1 lakh, while a total joint replacement costs anything upwards of Rs. 2 lakhs.

    Cartilage preservation

    A suburban blood bank has agreed to upgrade for preservation of the cartilage harvests. Harvested cartilage preserved in culture media has a shelf life of 14 days, while those in cryo storage have an indefinite lifespan. Establishing cryo-preservation facilities and setting up a full-fledged tissue bank (for ligaments, meniscal cartilage and articular cartrilage) is the next objective, Dr. Venkatachalam said.

    The MOHAN Foundation has been propagating the message that virtually any part of the human body can be recycled, a spokesman said. One of the main concerns in the transplant scenario is the dearth of counsellors for families of patients, particularly of those in the intensive care units.

    The Foundation is looking for nurses and medical social workers to take up patient counselling. It can be reached on 26207000.

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