MUM Penny Howett and her daughter Erin have good reason to be all smiles after they were involved in the first-ever live hamstring transplant operation in Europe.

The ground-breaking operation at Basingstoke hospital – in which Penny donated a tendon to repair her injured daughter’s left knee – has blazed a trail that will hopefully be followed by other medical experts in the United Kingdom.

Erin injured her knee as a nine-year-old while skiing in Lapland in December 2011, suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament, ACL. The injury meant she was unable to stretch out her leg properly and suffered pains in her knee.

Surgeons often don’t operate on such injuries involving children because of lack of experience and associated risks.

But fortunately for Erin, who was treated as an NHS patient, she was referred to consultant orthopaedic surgeon Adrian Wilson, who works at Basingstoke hospital.

He and his colleague Paul Trikha, a consultant knee surgeon at Ashford and St Peter’s NHS Hospital, in Surrey, came up with the perfect solution.

They decided to carry out an operation which had never before been attempted in Europe – a live hamstring transplant.

Mr Wilson explained: “Paul worked in Sydney, Australia, for a while, in a hospital where this technique has been used for 15 years by surgeon Leo Pincewski, and he suggested we do this in Basingstoke.

“There were a lot of hoops to jump through and we were very fortunate that Basingstoke hospital has a licence to handle human tissue at the bone bank. Only a handful of hospitals in England have such a licence.

“It also involved a great deal of planning as to how we would transport the tissue between the operating theatres.

“But it could not have gone any better. The recovery time for both mother and daughter was very quick.”

Mr Wilson explained that the live hamstring transplant has a number of advantages over current techniques to treat ACL injuries.

Usually, hamstrings are taken from the child’s same leg and used to rebuild the torn ligament, as in adult surgery, but with young children, the tendons can be very small and inadequate.

The other option is to use tissue from donors which is treated with chemicals, but this is not as good as ‘fresh’ tissue.

Mr Wilson said: “The other advantage with a live transplant is the cost – using donated tissue, which has to be treated and stored, can cost around £3,000.”

During the operation, which took place on August 20, mother and daughter were both given general anaesthetic in separate theatres before a hamstring tendon was removed from Penny’s left leg.

This tendon was then transferred to the operating theatre where it was quadrupled to form a graft and rebuild Erin’s torn ligament.

Penny and Erin, who is now 11 and goes to The Clere School, both made a speedy recovery and are delighted with the results of the surgery.

Penny, 37, from Pamber Heath, said: “It wasn’t a difficult decision to make when we heard that we might be able to have the surgery.

“After the accident, Erin had to move differently – she was still doing all the things that she used to but she was unable to extend her leg, and she had to adapt.”

Speaking about the transplant, the housewife added: “I was on crutches for a couple of weeks but the operation itself was relatively easy for me.”

Now, Penny and her husband Jon, 37, are trying to encourage their daughter to take it easy for the next few months.

Erin said she found it difficult to trust that she could stretch her leg out following the operation, after months of not being able to do so without pain.

She said: “It did feel a bit funny but it’s much better now.” She added that she was very pleased she had undergone the operation.

Mr Wilson and Mr Trikha now have plans to operate on further patients in the New Year, and hope that other medics around the country will follow their lead.