For quick background...I tore my ACL and MCL off Granite Chief at Squaw. I was put under by my surgeon expecting to receive an ACL transplant but when I woke up he told me that he'd done a Healing Response procedure instead because it turned out I had a partial tear. The Healing Response is a technique developed at Steadman Hawkins. I'd never heard of the procedure before so I started researching and hitting the posting boards.
I've read everything I could find in the past few days which wasn't much. The theory behind the procedure is that the reason the ACL doesn't heal itself is that it has no blood supply so it can't clot, scab, and heal itself like an MCL can. Harvard wrote a paper on why ACL's don't heal themselves that jives very well with Steadman's approach. Only at Harvard they were proposing using collagen to generate the connection. Steadman uses stem cells from bone marrow. I could find no further information from Harvard so I have no idea if they've actually followed through with any procedures but it gave me more confidence to learn that another highly reputable institution was taking a very similar approach based on the same theory. Previously it was looking like only the Steadman-Hawkins clinic or doctors who studied there (like mine) were doing anything like this. I have run across quite a few OS's that think it's a useless procedure because it's performed on candidates who had a pretty decent chance of healing anyway so they thought that claiming success was suspect.
The Healing Response procedure mimics the way an MCL heals by creating and fusing a clot at the ACL tear using your own bone marrow (rich with stem cells) from your fimur. They perforate your fimur right at the ACL tear and the also perforate the tissue on the tear itself. Your bone marrow essentially bleeds into the gap and that's where the clot sits while you sit on your bum for 6 weeks. What happens is that the clot bonds to the tear and generates regrowth. Eventually the clot generates into a substance that is very similar to a ligament and is completely fused to your own ligament. Allegedly it makes as strong of a connection as using a ligament replacement because you keep your own connection....no bone plugs. There is a pretty good paper on what's happening at the cellular level on the Steadman-Hawkins research center site. I won't try to reiterate it as I'm scientifically challenged. It can only be done if the tear is at the very top of the ACL where the connection to the fimur is.
After reading about all of the other approaches it seems like some of the pros are that you only have 2 tiny scars because nothing is harvested or replaced. No secondary injury to heal. No used parts Also, while the first 6 weeks of recovery are hell for anyone used to being active, the overall length of the recovery is much shorter....no bone to fuse, no screws and so forth. It really is much less invasive. The glaring downside is that it is very new and controversial. From what I've found so far it looks as though it's probably only been done 5 or 600 times in the US. It does look like it's being performed in Switzerland quite a bit (I found that on someone's post but unfortunately it linked to an article written in German). The most famous case study was Bode Miller who had it done 8 months before taking 5th at Worlds.
My doctor is at Stanford Sports Medicine Clinic in Northern California but he trained under Steadman. I don't want to post his name because I think it's unfair. I do think he's an excellent surgeon who is obviously up on all the latest techniques. My incisions aren't even leaving any scars and my pain has been minimal. I stopped taking Vicoden at day 3 post op. He calls you personally the night after your surgery and he even goes to your first PT appointment to make sure that the transition from surgery to PT goes smoothly and all questions on therapy programs are answered. He probably does 6-8 knees a week and he does all his own surgeries unlike some of the big name OS's who have been around a long time. My only gripe is that I wish he'd educated me on the procedure before he went ahead and did it.
I'm probably over posting on a procedure that not many people will have but since I found very little information, I figured I'd try to contribute a lot so that the next person who google's "healing response" finds a few more posts and contacts. I'd also love to hear from anyone else who has had this procedure to see what your experience has been.