Patient Stories

Keith W. Lawhorn, MD

Hurtling down the most difficult double black diamond ski slopes doesn’t faze Mary, but when she faced a series of technically demanding knee surgeries, she was grateful to have one of the most experienced orthopaedic surgeons to perform them. Mary, who is in her late 40s, had injured her knee in a freak accident at an exercise boot camp near her Herndon home. Subsequent diagnostic tests and procedures revealed a host of problems: an acute ACL tear, a complete radial split of her medial meniscus, and a large area of cartilage damage.

She was referred to orthopaedic surgeon Keith Lawhorn, MD, who determined she needed ACL reconstruction, a meniscus transplant, and cartilage regeneration surgery – a technique known as autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI). This two-part procedure involves harvesting the patient’s own cartilage, growing the cells in a laboratory, and injecting them back into the damaged area.

First, Dr. Lawhorn performed an ACL reconstruction to strengthen her knee and harvest the cells for her cartilage regeneration surgery. He later performed the medial meniscus transplant and ACI – two lengthy, complicated procedures – at the same time.

In a meniscus transplant, meniscal tissue from a donor cadaver is size-matched and transplanted into the knee using an arthroscopic-assisted, mini-open approach. Because the operation is technically challenging and requires months of post-operative rehabilitation, meticulous and appropriate patient selection is critical for success. The procedure is typically reserved for patients under 40, but can be considered in patients up to 50 if they are highly active and have minimal arthritic changes.

Following her surgeries, Mary spent two days in the hospital and returned home for an intensive, year-long rehabilitation. During the first two months, she used crutches and built up her strength on a continuous passive motion (CPM) machine. She began walking again at 10 weeks and spent another 10 months in physical therapy at OrthoVirginia. One month later she went hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains, and a few months after that she was finally back on the challenging double black diamond ski slopes she loves so much.

“I was very motivated to get back to my previous activities and lifestyle – and keep up with my 10-year-old son – and I couldn’t have done it without Dr. Lawhorn,” she says. “He went above and beyond and did an amazing job. He is so technically gifted. My pain is gone and my scar is so small you can barely see it; everything looks fabulous. Now I recommend him to others all the time.”