The Double Bundle: A Journey Back From Injury

JONESBORO - Snow skiing is a sport loved by many.  The thrill of gliding down the mountain though the fresh snow can be exhilarating.  However, the dynamics of snow skiing make even the most professional skiers susceptible to injury.  Such was the case with KAIT's very own Diana Davis.

"I've been snow skiing since I was a teenager.  My kids have been on skis since they were old enough to stand up, and none of us have ever had a bad accident despite plenty of spills on the slopes.  However, one wrong move on a black slope in Minnesota last December sealed my fate for the next six months, possibly more."  I remember that as while I was falling there was a "pop," then a sharp, excruciating pain.

After receiving an MRI, it was confirmed that there was a tear in the ACL or Anterior Cruciate Ligament, on the right knee as well as some other possible complications.  The next stop was in the office of Dr. Jimmy Tucker, an orthopedic surgeon in Little rock.  "We see alto of snow skiers," commented Dr. Tucker who at first was concerned about the other injuries in the knee, but was soon relieve when they turned out to be mild.  He was positive that I would do great though surgery.  However, this would not be the normal ACL operation, Dr. Tucker is referring to, but a fairly new procedure called Double Bundle.

To better understand it, one can look at how the Femur and Tibia meet to form the knee joint.  The ACL is a dense cord that can take up to 500 pounds of pressure before it tears and runs down the middle of the knee, but one wrong turn or sharp pivot can result in injury.  The ACL is normally made up of two bundles, however, for years now the repair surgery has been done with one bundle or graft.  But this doctor says that's not good enough.

Dr. Freddie Fu says ACL surgery should involve two bundles and his Double Bundle procedure has doctors like Tucker traveling to Pittsburgh to learn how its done.  Dr. Jimmy Tucker said, "It was initially done in Japan. They started it about 6 years ago. Dr. Freddie Fu in Pittsburgh is the first person in the United States that started doing them initially about 2 - 3 years ago."

Now 100 procedures later for Dr. Tucker, and I am the patient on the operating table.  Using arthroscopy, Dr. Tucker uses a fiber optic telescope outfitted with a miniature television camera to make repairs through several very small incisions. He begins by cleaning out the old ACL which looks like small wispy white strands smaller than that of a pencil.  Only some small pieces are left to guide Dr. Tucker where to drill tunnels to anchor the new bundles.  The new ACL is an allograft or tissue harvested from someone who has died and made the decision to be an organ and tissue donor.  The grafts themselves are only the size of a finger and will take two to three months for the body to assimilate and begin making new cells.

Meanwhile the long and hard road of physical therapy begins.  On the first day of really working my new knee it did not want to cooperate.  It felt as if someone else had control of my knee.  I begin daily routines of quad sets, heel slides and other exercises to try and get gravity to make a bend in that stubborn knee.