Medical Minute 11-12: Stem Cells Reach New Heights

By: Melissa Medalie Email
By: Melissa Medalie Email

Vern Tejas spends most of his life on top of the world. His resume includes conquering Mount McKinley 40 times. Mount Kilimanjaro 20 times and Mount Everest nine times.

"The physical challenge of going someplace that's off the beaten road..." said Vern Tejas.

A broken ankle from 30 years ago created his biggest barrier yet.

"It's getting to the point where I'm limping," said Vern Tejas.

The cartilage in between his subtalar joint right below the ankle, was gone.

"The conventional treatment for that is to fuse the subtalar joint which means make it stiff," said S. Robert Rozbruch, M.D. Chief, Limb Lengthening and Complex Reconstruction.

That's not an option for Vern, so doctors tried a new approach. Implant a fixator for three months that pulls apart the joint. Then, inject stem cells in the new four-millimeter space where cartilage will regenerate.

"We used stem cells derived from his pelvis," said S. Robert Rozbruch, M.D.

Doctor S. Robert Rozbruch has done 100 of these procedures on ankle joints. 90 percent of patients are relieved of pain and don't need fusions.

"Basically you see a reversal of arthritis."

"With this new technique I'll have a foot than can go 20, 30 years," said Vern Tejas.

A climbing king who wasn't going to let pain prevent him from his next adventure.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT: Robert Rozbruch, MD Chief, Limb Lengthening and Complex Reconstruction Service Hospital For Special Surgery (212) 606-1415

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