NEW ORLEANS - It's a common ailment among young athletes and baby boomers, knee pain.
But what would happen if you could grow your own, new body parts to replace those that have worn out.
It is now possible that you could be one of the first to fix your knee with new technology.
At only 28 years old, Lakethia Hampton already has joint pain.
"Lately it's just like, just been going. Coming up and down the steps, I get like this little crunch in my knees, so I know that I have to slow it down and not really over do it," said Hampton who is now coaching at Ursuline Academy.
She began playing sports at the age of six. Her years as a basketball player at Tulane and the pros in Europe as a power forward and center, have taken a toll. She's had many knee surgeries to repair injuries.
So Hampton hopes she qualifies for a new study. The Ochsner Sports Medicine Orthopedic team is testing a new way to repair injuries or nicks in the knee cartilage. These dings keep the joint from gliding smoothly, causing pain when you load the joint.
"Articulate cartilage is a shock absorber. It protects that bone underneath that surface from loads, so if you try to run or jump or really do high demand stuff, the body will hurt if that stuff is not there," explained orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Deryk Jones, the section head of sports medicine and cartilage restoration at Ochsner.
The new technology is called NeoCart. First, a little piece of your cartilage is removed arthroscopically. Then the cells are multiplied and put around a disc that acts like scaffolding. The cells are then put back in the divot in your knee cartilage with some adhesive to regenerate your own new tissue.
In the original studies, there were 50 patients who tried this new way of fixing their knees, and investigators are seeing very good results. That is why doctors are now looking for 245 additional patients to try out this new treatment.
Lakethia said she is hopeful, even though she is not going back to the pros.
"Even outside of sports, you still have to live, you know. I might want to have kids one day. I want to be able to run with my kids. So I have to take care of my body now," she said.
Ochsner doctors are looking for active men and women between 18 and 50 years old, who have this specific type of knee problem. It is not for people with complete osteoarthritis where bone is rubbing on bone. Study participants can be overweight but not obese with a BMI of 35 or higher. Doctors will also need to determine if you have good alignment in your bones with both legs being similar. Patients will know if they are getting the new NeoCart treatment or the current standard of care arthroscopic knee surgery. For the arthroscopic surgery, there is a two to four week recovery period. For the NeoCart procedure recovery is longer, three to six months.
To see if you qualify, call 504-736-4872. Or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The procedures are covered, but some patients may have some out-of-pocket costs.