Stem Cells Help Rebuild Woman's Shattered Leg

A ground-breaking surgical technique has been used to rebuild the leg of a woman who suffered a bad break in a hit-and-run accident.

Diane Stuttard from the U.K. had been told she would have to have her leg amputated after 11 operations failed to fix her bones.

But in a world first, surgeons used her own stem cells to repair the damage, and lengthen the shattered limb.

"I was advised to have the leg amputated by the surgeon in Leeds, but thankfully I said I wanted to wait until I had exhausted all avenues," she told Sky News. "I'm glad I did because this stem cell technique has come up and now it's my chance to get it right."

Stuttard was hit by a car while walking home after a night out in 2001. Her left tibia and fibula — her lower leg bones — were badly broken.

Scans revealed that more than 2-inches of her bone had become infected and died, preventing the fracture from healing.

In a pioneering operation at the Spire Alexandra Hospital in Kent, England, surgeons first removed the dead tissue, then clamped Stuttard's shinbone back together.

They then took a sample of bone marrow from her pelvis and purified stem cells.

These were mixed with Surgifill, a unique gel that traps the cells against the fracture. Within days they start to form healthy new bone, healing the break.

Orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Anan Shetty, is optimistic about her chances of making a good recovery.

"I feel it's pretty good," he said. "I am confident the fracture will join up."

It will be 18 months before surgeons can be sure that Stuttard’s bones have properly healed.

Click here to read more from SkyNews.