Synthetic ligaments is the way forward

Doctors in India are now performing synthetic ligament arthroscopy procedure for ligament knee injuries.
Representative Image
Representative Image

CHENNAI: New to India, two years ago, Synthetic ligaments made of polyethylene terephthalate (polyester) is a gamechanger for treating multiligament knee injuries. Introduced in India just two years back, synthetic ligaments are used in treating knee injuries that require reconstruction of ligaments. 

Doctors in India are now performing synthetic ligament arthroscopy procedure for ligament knee injuries. Ligament is a fibrous connective tissue that attaches bone to bone, and usually serves to hold structures together and keep them stable.

Though arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure, is not new, the ‘first’ surgery using synthetic ligament was performed on a 23-year-old software professional recently at the Rela Hospital in Chennai. The patient had suffered a multi-ligament knee injury in a road accident three months ago. The surgeons used artificial ligaments to reconstruct two cruciate ligaments, the ones that are found inside the knee.

Synthetic ligaments are on a par with natural ligaments in terms of strength and durability, say doctors. “Though it is not studied in the Indian population, the available data from Poland shows promising results, and once it's tried here on as many patients, we would have Indian data,” said Dr Prakash Ayyadurai, senior consultant, arthroscopy and sports medicine, Rela Hospital.

Traditionally, doctors either used autograft which involves harvesting and using ligaments from the patient’s body, or allograft, where ligaments are harvested from the cadaver or amputated legs. It also affected the patient’s quality of life and ability to return to work or sports. Synthetic ligaments eliminate many of the shortcomings of traditional methods, say experts.

Dr Prakash said, these traditional treatment approaches can lead to prolonged rehabilitation periods and also can’t understand the long term effects of the surgery. 

Synthetic ligaments, which are imported from the UK, are readily available and they do not require regulatory approvals. Recovery is also fast compared to traditional methods which take weeks or months, said doctors.

The synthetic ligament will incorporate into the joint and may form a new ligament. Anybody can undergo the synthetic ligament procedure and there are no selection criteria. Lifespan of the synthetic ligament may be till the patient is alive. Ligament knee injuries surgeries using synthetic ligaments have been done in Poland and UK since 2009. The patients can perform their regular activities post surgery and there are no restrictions, said Dr Prakash.

Synthetic ligaments also eliminate the need for an additional procedure, which has to be performed on harvested ligaments in the case of autograft. Also, there is no waiting period unlike allograft. Around 20% of knee injuries are multiligament knee injuries that require reconstruction of ligaments, according to doctors.

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