New operation brings pain to its knees

Michele O’Connor
Die Burger 2007

A new technique where the meniscus in the knee is repaired using donor tissue will soon be available to provide relief for the pain and suffering of South Africans. Note: (The menisci are two crescent-shaped disks consisting of fibrous cartilage located in the knee joint between the femur and the Tibia)

Dr Ockie van Zyl, a Cape Town orthopod specialising in hip and knee injuries and replacements, recently visited Belgium to learn the technique from colleagues there.

According to him, the operation is simple and because it is an arthroscopic procedure (using key-hole surgery), patients experience less pain and heal quicker than is the case with an ‘open wound’ operation

“The procedure has already been performed since 2003 in America and has recently become very popular in Europe. I hope to perform the first operation (in South Africa) very soon at the Panorama Medi-Clinic,” Van Zyl said.

According to him, when a meniscus has been removed from a knee, the knee, over time becomes unstable and painful. This operation can turn the whole process around because it makes no difference how long ago the meniscus was removed; it can now simply be put back.

The patients’ large meniscus is measured with a magnetic sonar scan and a CT Scan and then the tissue is ordered from the tissue bank in Pretoria.

“Unlike a heart or a kidney, the meniscus tissue cannot be rejected by the body and all tissue is rigorously tested for diseases like HIV/AIDS.”

“The operation is ideal for sportsmen and women and people who live active lives. In the past, many promising sporting careers were cut short by torn and injured menisci. Now this operation provides a quick solution with the added advantage that it can be performed on a patient more than once,” Van Zyl said.

Van Zyl said the operation lasts around an hour. Afterwards, the patient wears a knee brace and uses crutches and undergoes a rehabilitation programme for around three months.