Surgeon Launches Innovative ACL Surgery Offering Faster Recovery

Enter Wall Street with StreetInsider Premium. Claim your one week free trial here.

DuBois, Pennsylvania, 04 Feb. 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Cayleigh Walker’s hopes for a successful basketball season were nearly dashed when she tore her ACL while playing summer league basketball at the YMCA in July 2021. However , the Clearfield, Pennsylvania High school sophomore returned to practice just three weeks after surgery in August, accelerating his return to the field with the Lady Bison varsity basketball team.

“I was stepping onto the court and I felt him jump,” Cayleigh recalled. “I was in so much pain. I had to take time off from the game while some parents tried to stretch it out. I couldn’t wait to get it checked out as we were leaving for the beach two days later. Luckily I got been able to get an appointment to have him examined the next morning.

Cayleigh and her parents chose Penn Highlands Orthopedics and Sports Medicine for her care. At Penn Highlands, she was examined by Tyler Beers, PA-C, who tested her range of motion and felt around the injured area. He gave her a splint to wear and ordered an MRI which was scheduled for the following week when the Walkers returned from their vacation.

The MRI revealed the torn ACL. The next day, Cayleigh met with Dr. Matthew A. Varacallo, Medical Director of Orthopedic Robotic Surgery at Penn Highlands Healthcare. The orthopedic surgeon specializes in sports medicine, total joint reconstruction, accelerated rehabilitation protocols and functional return to sport after surgeries and interventions.

Named one of the “65 Best Total Knee Replacement Surgeons You Should Know” by Beckers’ ACS Review, Dr. Matthew Varacallo pioneered the innovative fertilized ACL technique with Dr. Chad Lavender, an orthopedic surgeon at Marshall University in West Virginia. Currently, they are the only two surgeons in the United States to use the technique during ACL reconstruction surgery.

“Typically, when an ACL tear occurs, one-third of athletes re-tear the same side or injure the other knee; but, the theory behind the Fertilized ACL technique is to improve and accelerate bone tunnel healing rates, followed by revascularization and ligamentization of the graft (the process by which the tendon becomes a ligament) to improve function of the graft and its incorporation into the knee joint,” explained Dr. Varacallo.

The ACL fertilization procedure begins when bone marrow is removed from the tibia – the long bone inside the leg – which is rich in growth hormone and stem cells. A specialist perfusionist takes 60 milliliters of bone marrow and turns it into bone marrow aspiration concentrate (BMAC) which is used to initiate healing. The BMAC is mixed with a bone graft. Small tunnels are then made in the femur and tibia to place the graft during the procedure. The bone graft mixture and stem cells/growth factors are then injected into the tunnels to help stimulate them to heal faster. Once the tunnels have healed, the tendon can theoretically turn into a ligament more quickly.

“It really is a cutting-edge procedure,” Dr. Varacallo explained. “In traditional ACL surgeries, pressurized tunnels can be risk factors for re-injury because they can take up to six or seven months to heal. However, with the Fertilized ACL procedure, the tunnels heal faster because the graft begins to integrate more quickly into the body. In fact, four weeks after surgery, you can’t even see the bone tunnels,” the surgeon added.

Dr. Varacallo considers Cayleigh the star child of a successful ACL reconstruction as she reaches milestones earlier than expected, and Samantha (Sam) Morgan, MS ATC PES, certified athletic trainer at Penn Highlands Healthcare as well as with the Clearfield Area School District agrees.

“Three days after surgery, Cayleigh started rehab, and at three and a half weeks after surgery she was running, and six to seven weeks after surgery she was throwing a soccer ball. In contrast, with traditional ACL surgery, we wouldn’t see that kind of progress until three or four months after the operation,” Ms. Morgan detailed.

According to Dr. Varacallo, Cayleigh is several months ahead of where she should be in terms of progress based on the ACL Report Card Functional Test, The Report Card, which is used to measure how well a patient is achieving 15 different functional test steps. at two, four, six and eight months postoperatively, was developed at the University of Kentucky where Dr. Varacallo completed his training in orthopedic surgery and sports medicine.

“The ACL Report Card is a great reference tool because it not only shows the medical team the patient’s progress, but it gives the athlete something to aim for in their rehabilitation,” Dr. Varacallo said.

“I had four months of rehab five days a week,” Cayleigh said, “The first few weeks were tough because I was in a little pain, but Sam pushed me and helped me through it. “

Two months after surgery, Cayleigh was testing harder on the surgery side than on the other uninjured side. One of the factors that has contributed to her faster recovery is that before the surgery, she and other patients who have undergone Fertilized ACL Reconstruction Surgery have a “prehab”,

“We can’t operate on a stiff, weak knee, so before surgery we put the patient through movement and strengthening exercises to improve post-surgery results,” Dr. Varacallo explained. “The stronger the knee before surgery, the faster the recovery.”

In addition to improving flexibility, the prep teaches patients the exercises they will do during post-surgery rehabilitation so they are already familiar with what their physical therapy will entail.

“Cayleigh had an aggressive prehab,” Ms. Morgan said. “In addition to promoting knee flexibility, it is an educational tool that helps the patient understand the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of injury and healing. Three days after the operation, Cayleigh began her rehabilitation, and because she had gone through the rehabilitation, she already knew how to perform her exercises.

Pre-education, surgery and rehabilitation are all interdependent on each other. In fact, Dr. Varacallo uses an analogy to relate the process. “I think of the process of rebuilding and healing as of a home – prehab is the foundation, surgery is the main living standard, and rehabilitation is the attic.”

Ms Morgan pointed out that the Penn Highlands program takes a holistic approach to rehabilitation to reduce the likelihood of further injury. An individualized plan is created for each patient based on their specific sport. Cayleigh’s personalized plan included three separate days each week dedicated to a different regimen including strength, cardio and functional.

According to Cayleigh’s mother, Tammy Walker, her daughter’s rapid recovery is a combination of three factors, Dr. Varacallo’s innovative ACL fertilization technique, aggressive rehabilitation and equally important Cayleigh and Sam Morgan’s determination to get her back there. where she could play again. .

“We are very impressed with Dr Varacallo,” Ms Walker said. “He was very thorough and went through everything with us and even called to check on his progress after the operation.”

Word is spreading fast that the Fertilized ACL technique is available in central Pennsylvania. Dr. Varacallo’s schedule is filling up with athletes as well as people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who want to undergo ACL reconstruction surgery using this innovative technique. The surgery has already been performed on many college and high school athletes across the region.

Dr. Varacallo’s concern for his patients goes beyond the operating room. Even though he’s busy, he still found time to attend Cayleigh’s first scrimmage after clearing her to play. According to Cayleigh, while Lady Bison’s basketball team started off “shaky”, the team has now found its stride. Personally, she doesn’t miss a beat; she was recently named “one of the top 30 scorers” among hundreds of high school players in Districts 9 and 10.

For more information on the Fertilized ACL technique, visit

  • Basketball photo caption

  • Dr Matthew Varacallo

Corinne G. Laboon
Penn Highlands Healthcare
[email protected]

Source: Penn Highlands Healthcare

Previous Lights, Camera, Action - Smiley Pete Publishing
Next Village Theater presents a new relatable “healing tale” by the 2018 SAU theater graduate