WHAT’S NEW IN TREATMENT FOR KNEE PAIN
By Alan H. Beyer, MD, FACS
Patients with knee problems know how painful their condition can be. Damage
to the articular cartilage–the smooth lining that covers and cushions
the bones of the knee joint can be caused by injury or degenerative conditions
such as arthritis, and is usually the root cause of the pain.
New treatments for worn and torn cartilage are showing great promise. These
treatments focus on repairing the defect by actually restoring and regenerating
the cartilage. For smaller defects, we can now use artificial ‘scaffolds’
of a cartilage-like substance to plug the defect and encourage the patient’s
own cartilage to grow into them. The scaffolds are made of a calcium matrix
similar to the composition of bone. The procedure is performed arthroscopically
and has been in general use for only the last year.
More extensive damage to the cartilage requires greater surgical intervention,
and new developments in surgical technique will greatly benefit patients.
Autologous cartilage transplantation has been the treatment of choice
for several years. It involves the removal of a sample of the patient’s
own cartilage cells, which are then used to grow additional cartilage.
The growth process normally takes four to six weeks, after which the new
cartilage is implanted back into the knee during a second operation.
A new technique, however, is allowing surgeons to take the patient’s
cartilage cells and rearrange them onto a scaffold matrix that is then
reinserted at the site of the defect. It is performed arthroscopically
during a single operation, and avoids the need for a second surgery. Although
this technique is currently being perfected by only a few centers, Newport
Orthopedic Institute physicians hope to offer this procedure to patients
in about twelve months, when approval by the Food and Drug Administration
New treatment options such as these offer new hope for patients and may
help postpone or eliminate the need for total knee replacement. Be sure
to check back on the NOI website at newportortho.com, where we will continue
to keep you abreast of the very latest developments in orthopedic care.