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Rare knee treatment at Oswestry hospital now available across NHS

By Jonny Drury | Oswestry | Health | Published:

A rare treatment for a type of arthritis in the knee that has helped over 400 patients at a Shropshire hospital has won approval to be funded by the NHS.

Christopher Bloore and his wife Emma

Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (ACI) is a technique used to help patients with an articular cartilage defect, something that can impact younger people in their 20s and 30s – sometimes as a result of a sporting injury.

The Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital near Oswestry is the only site in the UK able to offer the treatment.

The procedure sees a sample of cartilage removed from the patient’s knee from which their own cells are then grown in a laboratory, a process which takes around three weeks.

These cells, known as chondrocytes, are returned into the patient’s defect area in a second surgical procedure.

ACI clinical trials have been running in several locations over a period of years, but it was only this month that, following extensive appraisal, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) agreed for the procedure to be widely available on the NHS.

The hospital has worked in partnership with Keele University and the Oswestry-based Orthopaedic Institute; the trio setting up the Oscell Cell Manufacturing Facility to produce the chondrocytes.

Tim Lennox

ACI procedures are performed by Professor James Richardson and Pete Gallacher, both experienced consultant orthopaedic surgeons.

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Professor Richardson said: “This facility has provided treatment to over 400 patients from across the UK in the last 20 years, along with many published studies of the outcome of ACI in the knee and ankle.

“The patients are usually only in hospital for two days post-operatively, though there is a lot of rehabilitation and physiotherapy to follow after that. The results we have seen have been positive, particularly if the patient has not had prior microfracture.”

The announcement that the procedure will be made available on the NHS was made at the 11th annual Oswestry Cartilage Symposium, hosted by the hospital earlier this month.

Over the years people have come from all over the UK have travelled to Oswestry for the rare treatment.

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Mountain Biker Christopher Bloore suffered knee problems after an accident in 2009.

The 45-year-old from Market Drayton said the pain took over his life, before being referred to the Oswestry hospital and having a trial in 2016.

ACI procedure

He said: “I’m delighted I was given the chance to trial ACI, I’m able to live a normal life again, I’ve even managed to shift the five stone I’d put on from inactivity. I’m absolutely delighted, it’s made a huge difference to not just my life, but also my wife and kids.

Lawyer Tim Lennox from Glasgow was also given a new lease of life following the treatment.

The 29-year-old was a keen footballer before he was forced to quit playing. He came down from Scotland to Oswestry this year to have his healthy cells taken from his knee, and grown over a three week period.

He paid tribute to the team at the hospital, adding: "I’m so grateful to Professor Richardson and the team at Oswestry.

"The work they do is incredible and I think it is fantastic that the ACI trials have been successful and it will now be available on the NHS.

“I feel like I’ve been lucky and I hope others get the same chance.”

Jonny Drury

By Jonny Drury
@JonnyDrury_Star

Senior reporter covering Oswestry and Mid Wales.

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