TRADITIONAL TREATMENTS: The first symptoms of a meniscus tear often include a popping sound coming from the knee joint, swelling and pain. If a lateral tear occurs, meaning the meniscus has torn lengthwise, it's possible for the loose cartilage to flip into the joint itself causing the knee to lock. In some cases, rest, ice and medication are enough to relieve the pain of a torn meniscus. In other cases, surgery is required to repair or remove a torn meniscus. The surgery is often done arthroscopically, meaning a tiny incision is made and a small device called an arthroscope, which contains a light and a small camera, is inserted into the knee. Once the arthroscope is inserted the surgeon can either use small instruments to repair or trim the meniscus through the arthroscope itself or through other tiny incisions. If the torn meniscus isn't surgically repairable and a portion must be removed, it can leave the patient with altered knee function and stability that can in turn lead to arthritis. If a meniscus has totally degenerated, a total knee replacement may be recommended.
SELF-HEALING: When meniscus function is deficient, bone rubs on bone and arthritis is likely to develop and progress. Because two-thirds of the meniscus is avascular (lacks a blood supply), a tear in that region will not repair itself. A new device called a BioDuct will transport blood and cells from the vascular portion of the knee to the avascular portion of the meniscus. Supplied with blood and cells for healing, the previously untreatable meniscal tear now has the potential for allowing the knee joint to be saved.
Veterinarian Jimi Cook, DVM, Ph.D. and orthopedic surgeon Steve Kane, M.D. teamed up at the University of Missouri to test BioDuct in both dogs and humans. "Dogs knees and human knees are really comparable both in the problem that occurs and the way that we treat them," said Dr. Cook. A research team, lead by Dr. Cook, performed the BioDuct surgery on 25 dogs that had worst-case scenario meniscal tears. With the BioDuct, the meniscus in the dogs' knees had complete or partial repair after a few weeks in all cases. "With the BioDuct, surgeons will be able to repair torn menisci and induce healing. People with meniscus injuries now have a better future ahead," said Dr. Cook.
BioDuct has received FDA approval for humans based on the trails performed at the University of Missouri. Dr. Cook and Dr. Kane say they expect to see BioDuct be put into practice by orthopedic surgeons across the United States in upcoming months.