Maine runner finds "miracle cure," for knee injury
GREAT CRANBERRY ISLAND (WGME) -- For five decades, Gary Allen has either been running marathons or training for them. His legs have logged more than 100-thousand miles, the equivalent of running four times around the world.
"I mean that's a chunk on a car odometer, let alone on a person," Allen said.
Miles that put wear and tear on his knees. This past year his right knee got so bad, he had to stop running. He says even standing up was painful.
"You would have pretty much said, you know, I wasn't ever going to run again," said Allen.
Allen found out a Bar Harbor doctor was helping athletes with a relatively new procedure that didn't involve knee surgery.
"My practice was one of the first two in the State of Maine to start doing it," said Dr. Mark Kandutsch.
It's called Platelet-rich Plasma injections, or PRP for short. Dr. Mark Kandutch says the best PRP candidates are the ones where medicine no longer helps but whose damage is not so severe it requires knee surgery.
"So there's sort of a sweet spot for when PRP is the most effective treatment that I know of," Dr. Kandutsch said.
Platelets are what cause blood to clot. But they also contain tissue growth factors that trigger your body's cells to start the healing process.
"And that's part of the way the body gets the surrounding tissue in the wound to begin healing," explained Dr. Kandutsch.
Six weeks ago, Allen went in for the procedure. His blood was put it this centrifuge, separating the platelets.
"This part here has actually got mostly platelets in it," Dr. Kandutsch explained to Allen during the procedure. "There's a surprising amount of platelets in the blood."
The Platelet-rich plasma was then drawn into a needle and injected right into the ligaments of Allen's right knee.
There is no blood flow inside knees. Otherwise, Dr. Kandutsch says a damaged knee might heal itself.
The platelet-rich plasma should trigger cells to start healing the worn down Meniscus cartilage in his knee.
"We believe that this can trigger some regeneration of tendon tissue and hopefully even some joint cartilage," Dr. Kandutsch said.
"You can only control what you can control. You know all this," said Allen.
Allen says after only a few weeks, he can't believe how much better his knee feels. He's also running again.
I came in and had the procedure done and walked out the same day. And then three days later, honestly two days later, I was getting around fine," said Allen.
Even Dr. Kandutsch is amazed how quickly the healing begins.
I'm a little puzzled by that myself. But you do see that", said Dr. Kandutsch. "Most people who are treated have a real satisfactory result."
Doctors report success rates of anywhere from 80 to 95 percent for patients who've had PRP injections in their elbow, ankle or knee.
Allen is hoping to reach a milestone at this year's Boston Marathon -- his 100th marathon. He says without this procedure, that would have never been possible. He will decide the morning of the marathon if he runs.