A cutting edge approach to save your knees

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St. GEORGE — They can ache, click, buckle and creak. We're talking about your knees, a very vulnerable joint that actually sidelines millions every year.

A St. George woman turned to a unique and cutting-edge procedure to stay active and healthy.

"I ride my bike a lot," said Staci Langston, however, cycling is a new sport to her.

"I grew up playing sports," she said. "I played basketball and softball, and my dad convinced me to play volleyball one year."

Unfortunately, her 35-year-old body is now paying the price. "The culmination of my genetics and playing sports, especially in positions like catcher and whatever else puts a lot of wear and tear on your knees," Langston said.

Five years ago, doctor's told her she had 50-year-old knees in her 30-year-old body. Too young for a total knee replacement and in pain, Staci turned to Intermountain Dixie Regional Hospital Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Zach Leitzi, who found her to be a candidate for a tissue engineering approach.

"This procedure itself is abbreviated ACI, which stands for autologous chondrocyte implantation," Leitzi said.

Leitzi removed Staci's own cartilage cells, then sent them to Boston for regeneration.

"Originally, I thought this is insane, that's so crazy," Langston said. "Then I was like, 'Wait, this is cool. Let's do this.'"

After a few weeks, doctors implanted the new cells back into Staci's knee.

"Within 24 hours there will be a complete layer of cartilage cells that adhere to the bone and then it has to replicate over time," Leitzi said.

The ACI procedure is not for the impatient. "Most patients who go through this process we have them prepared for like a 12 months sequential step-by-step rehabilitation," Leitzi said.

Langston knew that time was on her side due to her age. So she picked up cycling to prehabilitate her knees and worked it into her rehabilitation before and after both knee surgeries.

Langston also enjoys CrossFit and the occasional short run. She is grateful for her active lifestyle

"Looking back it, (the ACI surgeries) has blessed my life more than I can imagine, and you know I don't have to worry about having a lot of pain," she said.


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