Knee Cartilage Damage, Cartilage Regeneration (ACI)

Working out was always a big part of Frank’s life - until knee pain sidelined him. Told by others his only hope was a knee replacement, he went to the Penn Musculoskeletal Center, where they were able to save his knee and his active lifestyle.

Frank Trosky is motivated. As a college athlete, and now an attorney, husband and father of twins, he looked forward to a lifetime of high-energy activities, especially running and CrossFit that would keep his body healthy, relieve stress and keep his mind sharp.

But when got a knee injury from running – a torn ACL and meniscus - he worried about how it would impact his high-energy lifestyle. Soreness from a workout? Frank could take that. But over time, the knee pain became so troublesome, he knew he had to get it fixed.

The first doctor Frank saw told him he would never run again. At best, he might be able to swim. “When someone tells you that can’t do something you love, it’s very hard. I thought: what am I going to do now?”

Frank wasn’t ready to settle – and he wasn’t ready for a knee replacement. He wanted a second opinion and he got one at Penn Sports Medicine.

Dr. Carey, director, Penn Center for Cartilage Repair and Osteochondritis Dissecans Treatment met with Drank. Dr. Carey has spent his entire career helping athletes return to the sports and activities they love.

“Frank’s goals were to return to all activities without limitation, which is reasonable for someone his age, so we chose a treatment plan that was consistent with that,” says Dr. Carey. “If he’d had his knee replaced, he would not be able to resume running and jogging, or cutting and pivoting activities.”

Dr. Carey recommended an innovative cartilage procedure call autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI).

ACI for cartilage defect is a two-step procedure in which new cartilage cells are grown outside of the body, and re-implanted in the defective cartilage.

First, a very small piece of healthy cartilage was taken from Frank. That tissue was sent to a lab healthy cartilage where where they grew millions and millions of his own cells. After about two months, the regenerated cartilage was re-inserted back into Frank’s body.

“Dr. Carey and his team took cartilage out of my leg, regrew it in a lab, and reconstructed my knee using my own tissue cells,” says Frank. “I was on my way back to health.”

A few months later, Dr. Carey proceeded with the ACL reconstruction using Frank’s own tissue and fixed the cartilage defect.

“Dr. Carey was very confidant about doing the surgery. He knew I wanted to get back a very high level of performance. I started rehab literally a week after my surgery.

Innovative treatments and surgeries like Frank’s require a long rehabilitation process, and Dr. Carey stayed in touch with Frank throughout the process, checking with his physical therapist to make sure everything was on track and going well.

Today, Frank is back to his high-energy lifestyle.

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