PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Doctors say 75 percent of people who are physically active will get a knee injury at some point.

For the more serious cases, the damage can lead to arthritis or to a total joint replacement, but there’s a technique that can prevent that.

The simple movement of swinging her leg up and down used to be agony for Kasia Platt.

“The pain would wake me up at night,” said Platt. “I would be in pain basically all the day.”

A childhood injury damaged her knee and a failed surgery made it worse.

An orthopedic surgeon in New York found an area of damage on the bottom side of an otherwise healthy kneecap. It made her a perfect candidate for carving out the damage and replacing it with healthy cartilage harvested from a cadaver.

“Binds to the underlying bone of the defect and then to the cartilage surfaces around the defect so that it forms a new cartilage layer,” said Dr. James Gladstone.

The transplant only works in patients who still have healthy cartilage the cells can bind to. That new layer can recreate a smooth surface, decreasing years of discomfort.

Similar procedures are being done in Pittsburgh, using donor tendons and ligaments.

“We can fixate these tendons, and then allow these patients’ native cells to attach these tendons or ligaments to the bone,” said Dr. Brett Perricelli, an orthopedic surgeon at St. Clair Hospital.

But finding a donor for the procedure Platt had isn’t always easy. For the transplant to be effective, it has to come from someone under the age of 13, which is when the cells are most active.

“If we’re trying to recreate cartilage we’d like something that’s going to produce it as abundantly as possible,” said Dr. Gladstone.

Platt says she’s grateful to the donor’s family because she can once again enjoy a walk in the park – pain free.

To do the cartilage procedure Platt had, you need fresh tissue. It’s frozen, then thawed in the operating room just before it’s transplanted.

This type of procedure has been available for more than a decade, and it is being done locally, but at a community hospital for instance – just a handful of cases a year.

More Health News

Dr. Maria Simbra