“I went to tackle the quarterback, and I broke my femur during the play,” Williams said. “When it first happened, I didn’t think the injury was that bad. But the cartilage in my knee also was damaged, and then it died. Since then, I haven’t been able to do many of the things I used to enjoy.”
The traditional repair for this type of severe injury to knee cartilage involves replacing the joint using metal and plastic components. Although this procedure can resolve pain and offer a return to low-impact activities, an artificial joint has limitations, especially in young patients. However, a team of researchers and orthopedic surgeons at the University of Missouri has developed a new tissue-graft preservation method to offer patients like Williams a better, more natural repair.
Williams' injury and unique treatment are detailed in the video below:
“Traditional artificial joint replacements are not the most desirable option for younger, more active patients,” said James Cook, D.V.M., Ph.D., the William and Kathryn Allen Distinguished Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Missouri (MU) School of Medicine and director of the Mizzou BioJoint Center in Columbia. “With this replacement strategy, the artificial components do not function like natural cartilage. This can be a serious quality of life issue, because many activities must be restricted to extend the life of the artificial joint and prevent complications. With a younger patient like Jonathan, our approach is to use a regenerative biological cartilage procedure or ‘BioJoint.’”
Cook, who also serves as director of the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute’s Division of Research, worked with a team of MU researchers to develop a new tissue preservation system for donor cartilage and bone grafts. The Missouri Osteochondral Allograft Preservation System offers patients a higher quality graft that can be preserved for a longer period of time, making more grafts available to more patients. Williams is the first patient to receive a BioJoint graft preserved with this system.
“Biological joint replacements are a great option for patients, but time is a serious factor when using donated tissue for these procedures,” Cook said. “With all other preservation methods, we only have at most 28 days before the tissue is no longer useful to implant. Of course, this decreases the opportunity to match the graft with the patient, schedule surgery, get the graft to the surgeon and prepare for surgery. With our preservation system, donated tissues are usable for at least 60 days. That more than doubles the current window of availability. Grafts preserved with our new system also have a much higher level of living cartilage cells, making them better grafts.”
“A Mizzou BioJoint really involves not only the use of our unique preservation system, but also specialized techniques for implanting grafts ― techniques that were developed here at the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute,” said James P. Stannard, M.D., chair and J. Vernon Luck Sr. Distinguished Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery at the MU School of Medicine and medical director of the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute. “What sets us apart is our technology, which allows us to know beforehand the quality of the graft we are implanting. Then, using surgical techniques developed to reduce damage to the tissue during implantation, we are able to give our patients a greater chance for a successful, long-term outcome.”
Now, three months after the procedure, Williams is a freshman at MU and continues to improve as he recovers from the surgery. His outlook is changing again, but this time for the better.
“I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life not being active,” Williams said. “I want to do things like jog, hike and surf. I miss doing those things. I really did take it for granted, and now I’m ready to get back to doing them. It’s pretty exciting to be a part of this, but knowing I’m the first to get one of these grafts, well, honestly, I think that’s very cool.”
The Mizzou BioJoint Center provides leading-edge treatments for joint problems to restore function and quality of life. MU orthopedic physicians collaborate with scientists from the MU College of Engineering, the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and the MU School of Medicine to find better solutions for the most common orthopedic problems.