Orthopaedic surgeon Professor Julian Feller is leading research into the onset of osteoarthritis following anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction in young people.

This research, funded by philanthropy, is seeking to identify biomarkers at the time of surgery, or early postoperative period, that are associated with increased cartilage loss and osteoarthritis in children and young people up to the age of 25 years.

“We know that generally, if you have an ACL injury that your risk of osteoarthritis increases,” reflects Professor Feller.

“We’re concerned about the onset of osteoarthritis in the patient’s late thirties or forties which can turn into a significant disability at a very young age.”

Osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones wears down over time. It is most common in knees, as well as hands, hips and spine.

This latest study, made entirely possible by donations to the Epworth Medical Foundation, will use biomarkers found in blood and urine of 254 young people – 153 male and 101 female – a sample size reflective of the incidence of ACL injury between genders within the community in this age bracket.

“We are collecting a significant amount of information about our patients, including their personal attributes and biomarkers.”

An initial assessment of 20 samples has been conducted, identifying biomarkers in both urine and serum which we believe will allow us to track the degradation of cartilage over time and potentially predict patients that are more susceptible to develop osteoarthritis.

The study will also seek to identify factors that lead to young people reinjuring their knee after an ACL. It will also endeavour to determine whether there’s a difference in the likelihood of early onset osteoarthritis after a successful ACL recovery versus a reinjury of the same ACL.

“This study simply wouldn’t be possible without the support of donors. I believe that once it is complete, the findings will have a significant impact internationally on the care provided to young people with ACL injuries and their long-term health.”

To learn more about the impact of philanthropy at Epworth, visit News and Stories.


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