New help may be on the way for millions of Americans with knee pain, especially those who are too young for a knee replacement. The first clinical trial of a new treatment is being tested at the OSU Wexner Medical Center.
Drake Ross has a sedentary job as a bank examiner, but lives an active life. He works out several times each week. "It helps my psyche, my overall mental state, my body, and it keeps me in shape," he said.
But his knees have paid the price. Over the years, he's had both shots and surgery. But the relief was only temporary. "I needed something. You know, the pain was there," Ross adds.
The problem was his meniscus, the C-shaped pad that cushions cartilage inside the knee joint.
"Unfortunately, sometimes, they tear," explained his doctor, Christopher Kaeding. "When they tear, the meniscus doesn't do a good job of healing. It's somewhat analogous to tearing your fingernail - just trim out that loose piece, the unstable fragment that's not doing anything good."
Dr. Kaeding thought Drake would be a good candidate for a clinical trial for a new approach. Drake was willing. "I trust Dr. Kaeding, and so my trust extended to anything that he trusted."
So Drake became the first patient in the United States to test a new procedure that adds an implant to cushion the joint.
Dr. Kaeding, Sports Medicine Director for the OSU Wexner Medical Center, says until now there's been no good treatment for a damaged meniscus. Patients older than sixty can get a knee replacement. But in younger, active people, the fix would not last more than eight to twelve years. So doctors were reluctant to operate.
Dr. Kaeding said this implant, tested one hundred times in Europe, could be the answer. "It can relieve pain and hopefully slow progression of arthritis in that compartment," the surgeon said, and added, "Developing these new tools or procedures to help patients keep better or stay active, its fun to be part of a field that's advancing."
Now recovering at home, Drake hopes to be back exercising again in two to three months.
Since this is a clinical trial, it will be several years before the Food and Drug Administration knows if this implant works as doctors hope it will, and decide whether or not to approve it.