Every year millions of Americans suffer from chronic knee pain resulting from cartilage loss. One local surgeon is now offering an FDA-approved treatment that’s different than the typical surgery.

Dr. Timothy Juelson is an Orthopedic Sports Medicine Surgeon at The Bone and Joint Center. He is the only doctor in Bismarck that has been performing this surgery. The MACI treatment isn’t something new– but it has only been FDA-approved since 2017.

Chronic knee pain can happen due to a variety of reasons, whether that be from exercise, work, or physical sports. Dr. Juelson has been performing the MACI surgery, which repairs the cartilage in your knees by using the patient’s own cells.

KX News spoke with Dr. Juelson and one of his patients to see just how life-changing this surgery is.

MACI patient, Margo Thompson says, “It would be sharp pinching. It would stop you because it hurt you either that or it would sub lax where I would fall and catch myself. So it was definitely something we needed to get looked at.”

26-year-old Margo Thompson says she’s had knee pains since Junior High School. Thompson had tried everything from therapy to different types of injections and even having to cut down on her activity time. That’s when she finally made the decision to get her knees professionally checked out– a decision she wishes would have made sooner.

Thompson says, “It will just get worse if you don’t get it looked at. I learned that the hard way.”

Thompson was told she has cartilage damage and was given options– one being the MACI procedure. This FDA-approved treatment uses the patient’s own cells to regrow the damaged cartilage.

Dr. Juelson says “It is literally a liquid with into almost 30 plus million cells on a membrane. So it looks just like a clear liquid and it’s on the membrane and that’s what gets implanted into the patients knee. Those cells grow cartilage and then that’s literally where the patient gets their cartilage back in their knee.”

This procedure is different from a knee replacement but Dr. Juelson says it isn’t for everyone.

Dr. Juelson says, “So this a great way to look at joint preservation and keeping someone’s own knee as long as possible and keeping it function and healthy and being able to do the things are really the goals. So not everybody is a candidate and we have to look at the who big picture for each patient, so we do the right thing for them at the end of the day.”

For Thompson she says the surgery is the best thing that’s ever happened to her.

“I am back into all the activities and I am actually back to working out again, which I wasn’t doing prior because of the fear of hurting it or the pain. I can do all my normal activities again,” says Thompson.

The surgery requires a 12 to 18-month recovery period, but it is different for each patient. Symptoms of catrliage damage include pain, swelling, clicking and locking.

It is not known whether MACI is safe or effective in patients over the age of 55 and there are also weight restrictions associated with the procedure.

The procedure is available at the Bone and Joint Center in Bismarck where they treat patients from many different states. For more information, click here.