The Unispacer comes in a variety of sizes and thicknesses to fit the individual patient. Knee arthritis pain can be debilitating – affecting not only recreational activities, but simple daily routines as well. Thousands of Americans suffer from severe knee pain which keeps them from enjoying their lives as they might.
The treatment options for this problem in the past have included arthroscopic debridement (a temporary solution), anti-inflammatory medications (which can cause stomach and other health problems), “living with the problem”, or, as a last resort, total knee replacement. There is now another alternative: the “Unispacer™”, an innovative device designed to be implanted in the arthritic knee to restore the stability and alignment of the knee and relieve the arthritic pain, thereby delaying or perhaps avoiding the need for a total knee replacement.
Unlike a total knee replacement, the procedure to implant the Unispacer involves no cutting of the patient’s bone and no cementing of the implant in the knee. A small incision is all that is required before the implant can be inserted; it then centers itself in the knee, requiring no alteration of the surrounding bone or soft tissues. The surgery takes about an hour to complete, and the patient usually is only required to stay overnight after the procedure, instead of the three to four days required by a total knee replacement.
At this time, approximately 90 patients have been implanted with the Unispacer. Although the follow-up on these patients is still relatively short (the longest being approximately 1 1/2 years), the outcomes have so far been excellent. There have been no revisions or complications in any of the cases. Often, the patients state that they have immediate relief from their arthritis pain, and as little as 6 weeks after the surgery have improved function.
Those patients who are eligible for this exciting new treatment are those who are in general good health, still fairly young, and have arthritis only in the medial compartment of their knee (see x-ray). The majority of the patients treated are under 65 and, therefore, are not yet ideal candidates for total knee replacement.
In this patient’s preop x-ray (left), the medial compartment has almost completely collapsed, but the lateral compartment is still relatively normal. In the postop x-ray, the spacer can be seen in the medial compartment, allowing more mobility of the knee.
The Unispacer is not for everyone with knee arthritis – but for those who fit the patient criteria, it is an exciting option for treatment and a chance to get back to their normal active lives.