Vet Voices

Former WVU walk on develops groundbreaking ACL technique for faster recovery time

Local News

It’s rare that a groundbreaking medical procedure is also a great American story.

Yet that’s certainly the case with Marshall Orthopaedics’ Dr. Chad Lavender and the revolutionary Lavender Fertilized ACL technique, which is showing through clinical studies hope of much earlier recovery time from ACL reconstruction.

Lavender recently published a textbook called “Biologic and Nanoarthroscopic Approaches in Sports Medicine.” He’s lectured worldwide.

And the spark for the orthopedic surgeon’s work came from a small town and a football field.

Raised in tiny Chesapeake, West Virginia, Lavender played for the local Riverside High football team, earning all-state and all-conference honors. Many, however, believed Lavender too small to play collegiately, especially at the Power 5 conference level.

Lavender, though, was not one of them. He made West Virginia University’s team as a walk-on long-snapper and special teams player.

It was there, playing football, where his vision sharpened to first become an orthopedic surgeon and, second, to improve recovery time from ACL injuries.

“I was at West Virginia University for three years as a football player and saw high-caliber athletes, unfortunately, get injured,” Lavender said. “I saw the struggle they had trying to get back from things like an ACL tear. Because of that – seeing how it affected them trying to get to the NFL – I was led to what I do today.

“It really fuels my passion to get athletes back to the fields of play, not only at the college level, but high school and beyond. I want them back to their highest level of performance. I want them to be the best they can be.”

So, Lavender began his search.

“Like any problem in medicine, I saw the need for better outcomes,” Lavender said. “Patients were taking six to nine months in recovery. Only about 60 percent were returning to their previous level of sport. We wanted to make it better. That’s the genesis of the fertilized ACL technique.

“My hypothesis was if we improved the biologics and healing process into the tunnel, where we put the ACL, patients would have a better long-term outcome. If we also improve the stability of the ACL with an internal brace, patients will have a better short-term outcome and be able to enhance their rehabilitation – which is exactly what we’ve seen.”

Through his study with Marshall Orthopaedics and Marshall Health, Lavender has found amazing success.

“As far as the fertilized ACL technique, we’re way into a clinical trial with 40 patients enrolled,” he said. “Thirty-six of those are already at the three-month mark and we’re seeing excellent results – both radiographically on MRI and CT scanning and functionally through testing.”

Lavender said there are many exciting results so far.

“First, we’re taking a patient’s own stem cells and actually using them to make a composite graft,” he said. “But in the last two to two-and-a-half years, we’ve been able to harvest bone from the reamings we get in surgery, that autograft bone, and put that in the composite graft. I think it’s amazing technology to do in a single stage procedure.”

It’s going so well that Lavender and Marshall Orthopaedics are ready to start a multicenter trial which will allow patients to return to play faster after an ACL reconstruction than previously tested.

“Seeing our patients thrilled, excited and back on the playing field… really that’s what it’s all about for us,” said Lavender. “That’s the best moment. We’re in a unique situation. We see patients visit in tears after they’ve torn an ACL or hurt their knee or shoulder. The best day is when you return them to activity and they get to walk back on the field to play whatever sport.

“That’s what drives our passion at Marshall – seeing the looks on the faces of athletes and weekend warriors. It’s just as important to get someone back to work as someone playing soccer. It’s what we strive for.”

It’s the bow on a package that includes both a medical breakthrough as well as a great American story.

“This shows you can do anything you put your mind to,” Lavender said. “Chesapeake is a small coal town in West Virginia. It doesn’t matter where you come from, a public school system or wherever, if you have a great support staff. I did from my family to teachers and coaches and now in my office and operating room. It’s all about the people in my life. It’s a great American story that no matter where you come from you can do whatever in life.”

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