A Step Forward

March 7, 2017

In the past year, clinical trials involving the NUsurface meniscus replacement have been underway in the United States. So far, the results are very promising and could have major implications for the future of sports medicine. With meniscus injuries common among athletes, this new approach to replacing the damaged cartilage has been shown to help patients recover and get back to activity without chronic pain. This is likely to be a significant step forward in treating athletes who have injured their meniscus.

A damaged meniscus has little ability to heal on it’s own and requires surgery to be repaired. Yet, even after these surgeries, patients often experience persistent knee pain and are likely to develop arthritis in the area later in life. For athletes who are too young for a knee replacement at the time of the tear, this surgery is often the only option available. But the NUsurface implant now provides a better alternative.

The implant is made from medical grade polymers that mimic the function of the natural meniscus. The procedure involves inserting NUsurface into the knee joint through a small incision. Patients who receive the implant can often go home the day after surgery and then complete a six-week rehabilitation program. Surgical trials started in Europe in 2008 and have recently begun in the United States. Most recently, Jon Foerster, a 44-year-old resident of Denton, Texas, successfully underwent meniscus replacement surgery.

“We are excited about the prospects of this,” Joseph Berman, MD, an Orthopedic Surgeon at Arlington Orthopedic Associates, P.A., in Arlington, Texas, who performed the procedure, told NBC 5 in Dallas-Fort Worth. “So far, we've had wonderful success in the European and Israeli studies that we are hopeful and excited about what we will see and do here in the United States.”

Foerster’s surgery was part of the SUN trial (Safety Using NUsurface), which will involve 120 patients around the country. If the trials continue to be successful, NUsurface implants will likely be approved by the Food and Drug Administration to be sold in the United States.

The SUN trial builds off the VENUS trial (Verification of the Effectiveness of the NUsurface System), which is in the process of enrolling 130 patients at orthopedic centers in the U.S., Europe, and Israel. As Dr. Berman points out, the results from these surgeries have been promising and suggest that NUsurface meniscus replacement could be the preferred method of meniscus repair in the future.

In Virginia, 54-year-old Dan DeMartine underwent a partial meniscectomy nine years ago after tearing his meniscus while kickboxing. Following the surgery, he suffered from persistent knee pain, which limited his daily sports activities. But this past year he received the NUsurface implant as part of the VENUS trial.

“There aren’t many options for patients like Dan, who experience persistent knee pain following meniscus surgery but are too young for knee replacement surgery,” Kenneth Zaslav, MD, an Orthopedic Surgeon from Advanced Orthopaedics in Richmond, Va., who performed the surgery, said in a press release. “We hope the VENUS study finds that NUsurface alleviates pain in these patients, as well as helps them delay or avoid knee replacement surgery.”

For DeMartine, an active athlete even in his older age, getting the replacement was a natural choice.

“I wanted a full solution, and not a temporary fix for my persistent knee pain,” he said. “As an athlete and father of two young children, it is very important for me to be able to play sports and keep up with my family. So far, the NUsurface implant has allowed me to get back to my daily life and alleviate the pain I’ve experienced for the last nine years.”