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First-of-its-kind transplant helps Dan get back on his feet
15 January 2018

Dan Kempster with Mr Mark BowditchA father-of-three has spoken of his gratitude to surgeons at Ipswich Hospital after becoming the first patient in the east of England to receive a meniscal (cartilage) transplant in his knee.
 
Dan Kempster, who lives in Ipswich, was left in severe pain after tearing the cartilage in his right knee while playing football in 2008, and was unable to walk short distances or play with his young children as a result.
 
But ten days before Christmas, the 31-year-old was given an early gift when he became the first patient to ever receive a meniscal transplant at Ipswich Hospital after a piece of cartilage the exact size he needed was found in the USA. The surgery was carried out by Mark Bowditch, a consultant orthopaedic and specialist knee surgeon.
 
“The injury stopped me from doing lots of everyday things, as even walking short distances was very painful,” said Dan. “I found it difficult as I’d always been active but all of sudden wasn’t able to do anything.
 
“I had four or five different operations over the years before Mr Bowditch mentioned the possibility of a transplant. It wasn’t something I’d heard of before as I’d always associated transplants with organs such as hearts and kidneys.
 
“We had to wait a long time before an exact size match was found, then two weeks before the operation our home flooded and we were forced to find somewhere else to live. It was all a bit of a nightmare and there were definitely times when it felt like it was never going to happen.
 
“But to have the surgery was a nice Christmas present and I’m now recovering well. My aim is to be able to play with my children and do normal ‘dad’ stuff with them – all of the things I wasn’t able to do before.

“I’m really grateful to Mr Bowditch and his team for all of the help and support they have given me.”
 
The surgery is only suitable for a small number of patients under the age of 35 who have persistent pain in their knee, after damaging and losing their whole meniscus (cartilage). The operation is complex and takes around two hours to complete using keyhole surgery, with the patient able to return home the following day.
 
“We are very excited about this surgery as it is the first time this modern technique has been carried out in the east of England,” said Mr Bowditch.
 
“The procedure tries to restore the cushioning effect of the meniscus, in turn preserving the joints until later in life. There is increasing evidence that it can help with symptoms and reduce the chance of the patient developing arthritis, which can be very difficult to treat in younger patients.
 
“The pioneering surgery has only really been available in Coventry previously, but we hope that we will establish Ipswich as the eastern region’s referral centre of excellence for this rare procedure.”