A SCHOOLGIRL from Basingstoke is thought to have become the youngest person to undergo a revolutionary operation – described as the “Holy Grail” of knee surgery.

Little Rosanna Chapman was just five when she underwent the life-changing surgery, performed by pioneering surgeon Adrian Wilson.

Now, just three months later, she has experienced an incredible transformation and is back to her normal, active self.

Her dad Richard Chapman said: “This operation has really changed her life. We feel so lucky to be living in Basingstoke, and to have been able to have this operation on our doorstep.”

Rosanna tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her knee when she was playing on a friend’s trampoline. The injury is commonly found in adults but it is extre-mely unusual for it to be diagnosed in children and young teenagers.

As previously reported in The Gazette, Mr Wilson, a knee surgeon who works at Basingstoke hospital and BMI The Hampshire Clinic, has been at the forefront of performing new techniques in knee surgery.

He is one of only a handful of surgeons who are familiar with a technique known as ACL repair in which the damaged ligament is reattached, instead of replacing the ligament with either donated, or the patient’s own, ligament.

ACL repair, developed by fellow surgeon Gordon Mackay, can be used when the ACL comes off at the thigh bone, leaving a remnant of tissue. This can be reattached using spider-thin stitches made of Kevlar.

An ‘internal brace’ is then fixed in place – a 2mm tape which is passed through the middle of the knee, through the ligament and through to the outside of the thigh bone. This is later removed from young patients.

In children, the operation can reduce the risk of damaging growth plates and can mean recovery time is dramatically reduced.

Mr Wilson explained: “Using the patient’s own ligament is the Holy Grail of knee surgery, and the recovery time is so much quicker – you can be completely healed in between eight and 12 weeks.

“There are not that many patients who have had this operation so far as it is a relatively new technique.”

Although many surgeons would be reluctant to perform any kind of ACL surgery on a child – especially one as young as five – Mr Wilson was confident in his abilities, especially given the specialist paediatric equipment he has access to.

He said: “I did give it a lot of thought and it wasn’t a decision I took lightly, but it was definitely in Rosanna’s best interests.

“I spoke to her parents at length and explained all of the options, and they were happy for me to go ahead.

“The results for Rosanna have been unbelievable – it is great to see her running around and so happy.”

He said he believed Merton Infant School pupil Rosanna, who is now six, was the youngest patient to undergo the operation, which took place at Basingstoke hospital.

Her father Richard, 46, of Marnel Park, Basingstoke, said he was apprehensive before the surgery, but was in little doubt that it was the best option.

His daughter spent just one night in hospital in June after the first operation, and had only a week off school. She then spent less than a month using a walking aid and only one night in hospital to have the internal brace removed.

Richard and his wife Leila, who are both music teachers, said they are thrilled their daughter is now back to her active self.

Leila, 34, said: “She is now cycling, running around and playing with her older brother and sisters. She’s riding her scooter and climbing on everything. The only thing we won’t let her do is go on a trampoline.”