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Knee in Need! Danbury Hospital’s Delicate Meniscus Transplant Puts Beauty Queen Back in Pageant

Thursday, December 03, 2009 - Danbury, CT

Erin Olivo is more than just a pretty face. When she was in high school, this student athlete injured her knee in a softball game and thought her dreams of competing in the Miss Connecticut pageant and helping the impoverished were torn along with her knee. Now, the 22-year-old New Fairfield, CT resident is standing tall again as one of the first successful meniscus transplant recipients in the state in a specialized procedure performed by Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Ross Henshaw at Danbury Hospital.

“This procedure has been perfect timing for me as I plan to continue my worldwide travels with my school’s Humanitarian Travel Club in the spring and plan to compete in the Miss Connecticut pageant next fall,” said Ms. Olivo, now a senior at Western Connecticut State University who had the meniscus transplant surgery last month. “Even better, I look forward to resuming my low impact activities like jogging, hiking and snowboarding finally without the pain!”

The importance of the meniscus

The meniscus is a C-shaped disk between the thigh and shin bones, providing cushioning between the surfaces. When damaged, the meniscus can lead to excessive wearing and tearing of the cartilage and chronic arthritis as the two bones rub together.

Although many doctors treat a problem meniscus simply through removal, Danbury Hospital’s Dr. Ross Henshaw took the treatment one step further by performing a meniscus transplant on Erin’s knee, a specialized procedure that is offered in only a few hospitals nationwide.

“Even though the meniscus transplant has been around for about a decade, it is not typically recommended since it is a very complex procedure and doctors know that a patient can live without a meniscus for the short term even though arthritis will inevitably set into the bones after about ten years,” said Dr. Henshaw. “In Erin’s case, early arthritis was just not an option for her extremely active lifestyle. This combined with the fact that she was perfect candidate for the procedure, having normal, healthy cartilage and straight knee alignment sealed the decision.”

How is the meniscus transplant performed?

The specialized meniscus transplant procedure involves:

  • Measuring the size of a patient’s bone through x-rays
  • Submitting the measurements to a tissue bank, which then send a matching cadaver transplant graft
  • Shaping the donor meniscus and bone to create a custom key and lock fit within the patient’s knee
  • Using a camera and specialized instruments to sew the donor tissue to the patient’s knee

Dr. Henshaw notes that only 1 ½ to 2-inch incisions are needed on either side of the knee and most patients are back on their feet engaging in normal activities within six months.

Benefits of surgery

“Again, the meniscus transplant procedure is not designed to get you back to being a professional athlete or marathon runner,” adds Dr. Henshaw. “It helps to restore the normal cushioning of your knee, while helping to prevent the progression of debilitating arthritis.”

“The fact that I would be faced with knee pain and crippling arthritis by the time I was 30 was a scary issue for me since I didn’t want old age to come so quickly!” said Olivo.

Dr. Henshaw surmises that the meniscus transplant procedure will become more popular as education to internists and patients improves, as well as more orthopedic surgeons recognize it as a successful option for patients with otherwise normal knee structures who have lost their meniscus due to serious injury.

“The result? Reduced pain, improved function and less chance of early arthritis for patients!” concludes Dr. Henshaw.

About Danbury Hospital

Danbury Hospital’s surgical staff offers the full spectrum of orthopedic care for residents of Connecticut and New York. More than 800 patients per year choose the 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital for their joint replacement surgery. Its teams of board certified orthopedic specialists have adopted proven, minimally invasive procedures for orthopedic surgery, meaning less pain and faster recovery.

Danbury Hospital is a university teaching hospital associated with New York Medical College, the Yale University School of Medicine, the Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital provides centers of excellence in cardiovascular services, cancer, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, digestive disorders and radiology. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Medical staff members are board certified in their specialties.

Danbury Hospital is ranked in the top 5 percent of hospitals in the country for overall clinical performance by HealthGrades®, a leading independent health care rating organization. It is the only health care facility in Connecticut ranked among the top 5 percent of hospitals nationwide for overall clinical performance four years in a row.

In the area of orthopedics, Danbury Hospital ranks in the top 5 percent in Connecticut for joint replacement by HealthGrades®. Additional information is available at