Initial Visit and Bone Graft

I first got in contact with the Dr. LaPrade in March of 2016. He reviewed my records and stated that I was a candidate for a medial meniscus transplant. However, due to significant enlargement of my bone tunnels, I had to undergo a two-staged procedure starting with a bone graft using donor tissue. It takes 4-6 months to recover from a bone graft, then I could have Stage 2.

In April, I travelled to Vail, Colorado to undergo stage 1. I did not know what to expect for the procedure and had difficulty finding any information online regarding the recovery, so I went in a little blind. Although the surgery went well,  my doctor found considerable cartilage defects (grade 3) and a lateral meniscus tear. He did not fix the tear because it appeared as though it would hold until the next surgery. This meant that in addition to an ACL re-revision and medial meniscus transplant, I would also get an osteochondral allograft transplant (OATs) and a lateral meniscus repair.

A note on pain: prior to surgery I only received one nerve-block. That was a mistake. When I woke up, I was in a tremendous amount of pain. It was SIGNIFICANTLY worse than both of my ACL surgeries AND the meniscus transplant. I spent the night in the hospital and the my pain was at a 7 or an 8 almost the entire time. Eventually, one of the anesthesiologists came in and gave me a second nerve block in the back of my leg which improved things greatly. Moral of the story: if they offer two nerve blocks, take two nerve blocks.

The morning after the surgery I started going to twice a day physical therapy at office attached to the hospital. For the first two weeks we did the usual exercises (flexion, extension, quad contraction, leg raises).

I planned to stay in Vail for 6 days then fly back home, but due to pretty significant pain I ended up staying for about 10 days. Although the bone graft was significantly more painful than any other procedure I’d undergone for the first 4 days, it completely tapered off by day 5 or 6. I was on crutches for a week and by 4 weeks I was able to bike and swim.

So at this point I had no ACL and no meniscus, so I really had to limit my activities and be careful to prevent further damage.  Overall, the bone graft was pretty unremarkable save for the intense pain in the first 3-5 days. Now I just had to wait for the graft to heal.

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A Little Background

Hi there! My name is Grace. I’m a 26-year-old doctoral student with a relatively short but intense history of knee injuries. I thought I’d start a blog documenting my experience getting a meniscus transplant because I found other blogs very, very helpful in preparing for the surgery. I hope to give something back to the knee community that has been so helpful to me. To start, here is a little background on my knee.

In May, 2012 I tore my ACL playing college lacrosse. I had ACL surgery (hamstring autograph) and a partial meniscectomy. I had a very easy recovery and was back to doing all my previous activities with minimal problems within 8 months. A year and a half post-surgery, I started having sharp pain when I ran. Then my knee started clicking and collapsing when I was walking, so I knew something was wrong. I went back to the doctor and was told that I retore my ACL. This was surprising to me because at no point did I feel any acute pain or hear a pop.

So, two years after my initial ACL I had revision ACL surgery (patellar autograph) and another meniscectomy. Once again I had a very easy recovery and returned to all of my previous activities. Unfortunately, my progress started to plateau at about 8 months post surgery. Although I had been running pain-free for about 2 months, all of the sudden I started feeling grinding pain in my inner knee. Additionally, while working out on a rowing machine I notice my shin bone sliding forward. The minute I saw that I knew my ACL was torn. I was devastated.

I went back to my doctor and he suggested doing a third ACL surgery. At this point I was convinced something else was going on causing all of these failure and I didn’t want to spend the time/money on a third ACL without getting to the bottom of why they were tearing. He mentioned that almost 80% of my medial meniscus had been removed which may have placed too much pressure on the ACL. He suggested a meniscus transplant and said he would perform it; however, he had only done 3 surgeries in the past and I was not about to mess around. So I looked around for the best knee surgeons and was deciding between Dr. Stone in San Francisco, Dr. Cole in Chicago, and Dr. LaPrade in Vail. Stone didn’t take insurance and Dr. Cole’s office was extremely difficult to get a hold of/ disorganized, so I went with LaPrade. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Had I gone to him for my first surgery I might have had a simple ACL repair, meniscus repair, and been on may way. But hey, hindsight is 20/20.

A side note: at no point was I told by either of my surgeons that I had significant parts of my meniscus removed. Both (I had two different ones for each of my ACL’s) just mentioned they removed a small portion. I NEVER would have continued to run or do high impact activities had I known that nearly all of my meniscus was removed.