By: Diana Barnes-Brown for Knee1
A new device designed to treat sufferers of osteoarthritis (or OA) of the knee promises to help them beat pain, stay active and enjoy improved quality of life. Patients may even be able to decrease dependence on pain medications and avoid surgery with the help of the new device, which uses low-level electrical pulses to stop pain in troubled joints.
The device, called the BioniCare Knee Device, is made by Maryland-based BioniCare Medical Technologies, and was recently approved by the FDA as a treatment for OA of the knee.
|Can You Prevent OA of the Knee?|
|While heredity, gender, and age are three risk factors, with women, the elderly and those with a family history of the disease more likely to develop OA of the knee, there are some lifestyle factors that can influence a person’s likelihood of developing the disease. These include:|
Obesity. Now you have another reason to make an effort to stay active and eat well.
Injury or trauma from sports or other strenuous activities. Be sure to stretch and ease into an exercise regimen.
Repetitive stress injuries from walking, squatting or lifting heavy objects repeatedly. Don’t push yourself, and take breaks.
Other factors suspected to contribute to OA of the knee include vitamin C and D deficiencies, poor posture, and poor aerobic and muscular fitness.
OA of the knee is a leading cause of disability and pain for older adults. The disease usually develops in knees that have previously undergone damage, such as an injury to, or infection in, the joint. In healthy joints, a connective tissue known as articular cartilage creates a cushion between bones, so that they do not bump or rub together during normal use.
In OA of the knee, prior damage of the joint causes cartilage to deteriorate, reducing the cushioning between the bones of the leg. As the cartilage continues to deteriorate, the bone responds by growing and forming spurs. A membrane called the synovium, responsible for creating a fluid that lubricates the knee joint, may also become thicker and start producing more fluid in response to the changes, causing swelling and discomfort. As the cartilage continues to deteriorate, it may break apart entirely, leaving fragmented cartilage. The fragmented cartilage sometimes thins to the point that the ends of the bone begin to rub together, causing severe pain and limiting or preventing normal activity.
Traditionally, OA of the knee is treated with pain relievers such as NSAIDs, which include ibuprofen, the active ingredient in Advil and Motrin; naproxen, the active ingredient in Aleve; and rofecoxib, the active ingredient in Vioxx. Each of these drugs has risks of its own – which include increased stomach sensitivity, bleeding, heart attack, and kidney failure – and when these do not work, the next option is often surgery.
The BioniCare device uses low levels of pulsing electricity on the knee, helping to relieve pain and symptoms for the wearer. The electricity cannot be felt, and the device can be used during the day or at night. In two studies conducted by the manufacturers, patients experienced a significant improvement in symptoms. In one of the studies of a group of roughly 60 patients, those using the device showed a 130 percent improvement over the placebo group and felt more relief than NSAID users. The only side effect reported was a mild rash in those who reacted to the gel used to adhere electrodes to the skin. Patients had the best results with 750 or more hours of use.
In an article on the BioniCare Technologies Web site, the manufacturers write, “the BioniCare Knee Device fills a large, unmet need in the current treatment paradigm and has no significant side effects. The system represents a safe and effective option… for patients whose pain and other symptoms are not controlled by appropriate drug therapy alone, and who are unable or unwilling to undergo knee replacement surgery.”
While additional studies further demonstrating the efficacy and long-term effects of the device are called for, and the device’s hefty cost – currently they are several thousand dollars apiece, with limited insurance carriers covering the cost – it seems that the BioniCare Knee Device may represent one very important step towards getting OA patients back on their feet.