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Artificial implant for knee surgery can ease pain, speed recovery

The artificial meniscus, already in use in Europe and getting good reviews, is undergoing an FDA trial for use in the United States.

By Stephen Feller
Many people injure their meniscus, which acts as a shock absorber between the bones in the knee, during sports or other physical activities. Photo by Morrowind/Shutterstock
Many people injure their meniscus, which acts as a shock absorber between the bones in the knee, during sports or other physical activities. Photo by Morrowind/Shutterstock

BOSTON, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- Doctors in Boston are among the first in the United States to implant an artificial meniscus in a patient's knee, part of a clinical trial of a device that may help people who have had little to no treatment options.

The meniscus, referred to as a shock absorber where the bones in the knee come together, can wear down over time. Often, it is injured early in life while playing sports or other activities, and gets progressively worse over time.

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Doctors inserted NUsurface meniscus implant in the knee of Brockton, Mass., resident Rob Price at Brigham and Women's Hospital before Thanksgiving. Price had his ACL replaced in his left knee, and his meniscus was removed because of a tear, about 10 years ago after playing basketball.

The procedure to remove his meniscus, a relatively common one, left him with pain for years as the bones in his knee rubbed up against one another.

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While some meniscus tears can be repaired, many are treated like Price's and removed. Dr. Andreas Gomoll, who performed the surgery, said the NUsurface may change the way knees are surgically repaired because it is simply placed in between the bones in the knee.

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"It has a pretty complex shape that conforms to the shape of the knee joint," Gomoll told WCVB-TV. "You don't have to cut bone, you don't have to permanently alter the anatomy of the knee joint itself."

Gomoll said the ideal patient to receive an implant is between the ages of 30 and 50, has had surgery on a meniscus previously and is having problems with it again, though not arthritis. And the recovery itself, he said, is faster as well, tacking about two to three months.

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The NUsurface is currently undergoing a series of clinical trials to find its effectiveness surgically and over the long term as patients recover. The trials are expected to be completed sometime in mid- to late-2018.

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