Oregon Health & Science University has achieved a landmark in orthopaedic medicine by undertaking the nation’s first commercial application of a leading-edge surgical technique to treat osteoarthritis in the knee, a common condition that affects millions of people.
The case involved an implantable shock absorber that enabled the patient to resume normal activities without assistance — all in just three weeks after the procedure.
“I don’t want to throw around the word ‘miracle’ too lightly, but it’s pretty amazing,” patient Thomas Proctor said.
Proctor, an active 49-year-old who lives in the Aloha area west of Portland, said he began jogging in 1- to 3-minute intervals just three weeks after the procedure and is steadily rebuilding leg strength. Over the long term, he is looking forward to resuming hikes through Oregon’s Coast Range and Columbia River Gorge — plus he’s obtained some new climbing gear in anticipation of scaling peaks in the Cascade Range.
After two previous surgeries to reconstruct his anterior cruciate ligament dating back to a skiing injury in 2006, Proctor said he noticed a major difference in recovery time.
“It’s remarkable,” he said. “I’m pretty much just getting back to normal.”
OHSU orthopaedic surgeon Dennis Crawford, M.D., Ph.D., who conducted the procedure, says he believes there may be many more to come.
“This procedure is the result of more than a decade of clinical trials demonstrating that it’s scientifically sound and clinically effective,” said Crawford, professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation in the OHSU School of Medicine. “I think it’s going to help hundreds of thousands of people.”
The procedure is useful for patients with early to moderate osteoarthritis of the medial knee, causing pain to the point that it limits their daily activity.
Crawford and OHSU were part of a series of clinical trials sponsored by Moximed, which produces the MISHA Knee System. On April 11, the Food and Drug Administration provided authorization to market the device as an alternative to conventional knee replacement surgery.
Crawford describes it as the first notable advancement in treating knee osteoarthritis — a common condition — in half a century.
The next step will be to earn widespread acceptance among insurance companies, he said, adding that half a dozen procedures have been done nationwide since Proctor’s surgery at OHSU on June 28.
“Over the months and years ahead, I expect this procedure will become widely available and commonplace,” Crawford said. “I’m excited to help people to regain their capacity to work, walk and generally enjoy life without debilitating knee pain. I see people every week in the clinic who have gradually reduced their activity level to avoid knee pain. As such, these patients are losing capacity for simple daily activity, suffering as a result with diminishing health and often losing the ability to work.
“This device is uniquely able to treat this population by restoring those pursuits, occupational capacity and enjoyment of life.”
That’s certainly the case for Proctor.
Proctor, who works as a medical histotechnologist at OHSU and composes music through his own business, is grateful to be the nation’s first patient to receive the outpatient procedure under commercial insurance.
“The alternative was not to run, not to climb mountains, and to wait until I turn 60 to get a knee replacement,” he said. “It was an easy choice to make.”