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Tear, Repair and Rehab: Memorial Hermann Live Tweets ACL Surgery

#MHKnee takes viewers into the OR as surgeon repairs knee of sidelined athlete

HOUSTON (Oct. 22, 2013) – In sports, ACL tears happen, and when star players like the Houston Texan’s – then a University of Houston Cougar – Case Keenum, the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson and the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III suffer one, many fans and the public wonder: What is an ACL and how is it repaired?

On Wednesday, October 23, these questions will be answered when Houston’s Memorial Hermann Health System again opens up the operating room to give the public an inside look into an ACL surgery via Twitter.

Starting at 7:30 a.m., viewers can follow internationally renowned orthopedic surgeon Walt Lowe, M.D., medical director of the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute and Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), as he reconstructs the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) of a 19-year-old female.  The ACL, one of the four major ligaments of the human knee, is a major stabilizer of the knee joint and is usually sprained or torn while playing sports. 

The patient, a college student who is an avid runner and recreational athlete, tore her ACL playing intramural football.  While the patient has consented to this Twitter broadcast of the surgery, for patient privacy, Memorial Hermann will not disclose her identity.

Lowe, who performs 400 ACL reconstructions each year, typically recommends one of three surgical procedures – the patellar tendon autograft, the hamstring tendon autograft or the cadaver tendon allograft.“When it comes to ACL reconstruction, one size does not fit all,” said Lowe.  “You have to consider injury to surrounding tissue, how active the patient plans to be, how the patient might respond to a rigorous rehabilitation program, as well as a host of other issues.”

#MHKnee will showcase a patellar tendon autograft – most often performed on athletes – and use live, up-close video, still photography and play-by-play tweets to inform and educate the audience from the time the patient arrives at the surgery center until she is wheeled into recovery.

In a patellar tendon autograft, Lowe uses the patient’s own patella tendon (from the kneecap) to create a new ACL, which is comprised of a strip of tendon with two tiny bones at each end.  One end is from the patella and one end is from the tibia.  During the procedure, it is secured with screws inside tunnels that are drilled in the anatomic location of the original ACL’s attachment.

Lowe performs the procedure using a tiny fiber optic camera and slender instruments that can be inserted through three small incisions, reducing scarring and the risk of infection when compared to open procedures.

In addition to the step-by-step operation, through a partnership with UTHealth, viewers also will get the opportunity to “attend” medical school and watch as Lowe and his students enter the gross anatomy lab to harvest a cadaver tendon, and hone their surgery skills in the simulator lab.  

Steven Flores, M.D., fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon also affiliated with the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute and assistant professor at UTHeath, will be answering questions in real time during the Twittercast. Russ Paine, a physical therapist at the Institute who helped Peterson get back to the gridiron following his ACL repair, will be taking questions on post-surgery rehabilitation.

#MHknee is the fifth in a series of live online events sponsored by Memorial Hermann to provide the general public, healthcare consumers and medical professionals with an opportunity to participate and learn about the most innovative surgical procedures available. Follow the Twittercast @houstonhospital and #MHknee or online at

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About Memorial Hermann

An integrated health system, Memorial Hermann is known for world-class clinical expertise, patient-centered care, leading edge technology, and innovation. The system, with its exceptional medical staff and more than 20,000 employees, serves to advance health in Southeast Texas and the Greater Houston community. Memorial Hermann’s 12 hospitals include three hospitals in the Texas Medical Center, including the Texas Trauma Institute – a level I trauma center which houses the Life Flight® air ambulance – a hospital for children and a rehabilitation hospital, eight suburban hospitals, and a second rehabilitation hospital in Katy. The system also operates three Heart & Vascular Institutes, the Mischer Neuroscience Institute, three Ironman Sports Medicine Institute locations, cancer centers, imaging and surgery centers, sports medicine and rehabilitation centers, outpatient laboratories, a chemical dependency treatment center, a home health agency, a retirement community and a nursing home. As an Accountable Care Organization, the system also offers employers health solutions and health benefit plans through its wholly owned Memorial Hermann Health Solutions.

About UTHealth

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) was established in 1972 as Houston’s health university. The most comprehensive academic health center in The UT System and the U.S. Gulf Coast region, UTHealth is home to schools of biomedical informatics, biomedical sciences, dentistry, medicine, nursing and public health. UTHealth educates more health care professionals than any health-related institution in the State of Texas and features the nation’s sixth-largest medical school and the highest ranked nursing graduate school in Texas. It also includes a psychiatric hospital and a growing network of clinics throughout the region. The university’s primary teaching hospitals include Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and Harris Health Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. For more information, visit

Written by Lindsey Klingensmith of Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center Media Relations