No replacement needed: New device could be key to solving knee pain

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Arthritis of the knee is a common problem, and it usually only worsens with time.

Now, there’s a cutting-edge device doctors can implant in patient’s knees that lessens the pain.

For the very first time in the United States, surgeons have implanted a new device designed to relieve knee pain in patients with arthritis. The Calypso Knee System is putting spring back in the steps of people whose knees have been worn down after years of use.

Chuck Stenger used to be in pain taking dogs Storm and Ashes around the block. Thirty-three years as a professional firefighter took a toll on his joints.

“I was on an accident scene and I was kneeling down to treat a patient, and it felt like a nail was going through my knee,” he recalled.

It wasn’t a nail; it was arthritis. Chuck struggled for years with pain and was considering knee replacement when he learned about a new option.

The Calypso Knee System is being tested at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Surgeons make a 6-inch incision on the inside of the knee and insert the device.

“You’re putting a shock absorber outside the knee joint on the inner portion of the knee so that when they are walking that shock absorber takes some of the load off,” orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Flanigan said.

Doctors say the hope is that the device will delay or eliminate a patient’s need to have knee replacement. Chuck was the first patient in the country to have the Calypso implanted.

“The second day post-op, I put the crutches away,” he said.

There’s a small bump on the side of his knee. Otherwise, chuck can’t feel the device, but he knows it’s working.

“Walking the dogs is not a problem now," he said. "Up and down stairs. With this Calypso, if it works for me, I hope it helps a lot of other people too.”

For now, the device has him back on his feet, almost pain-free.

Chuck is retired from the fire department, but he’s looking forward to supporting local firefighters in an unpaid rehabilitation position.

Researchers are studying the Calypso Knee System, developed by the company Moximed, in 80 patients before it would be available nationwide. In European studies, the implant has provided pain relief for a decade for some patients.

REPORT: MB #4545

BACKGROUND: Osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as OA, is a joint disease that most often affects people middle-aged and older. Often called “wear and tear” of the joints, it’s actually a disease of the entire joint; including the cartilage, joint lining, bone, and ligaments. It is not accurate to say they are wearing out, as it is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage, bony changes in the joints, deterioration of ligaments and tendons, and inflammation of the joint lining. Lifetime risk of developing OA of the knee is about 46 percent, and overall OA is the top cause of disability in older people. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and improve function. There is no cure for this disease; however, some treatments aim to slow down its progression.

TREATMENT OPTIONS: Treatment of OA in the knee will depend on a number of patient factors, based on medical history, health needs, level of pain and impact, etc. Most treatment plans include a combination of therapies, as well as healthy lifestyle changes. Regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight will be the first recommendations, as this can ease strain on the joints and alleviate symptoms. Stretching is also recommended, to loosen up the joints and prevent symptoms during the day. Over the counter and prescription medications may be advised for pain relief, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidial anti-inflammatory drugs. Your doctor may prescribe COX-2 inhibitors or hyaluronic acid to act as a lubricant and shock absorber. There are also different physical and alternative therapy options for rehabilitation and relief; including massage, hydrotherapy and relaxation. Injectable steroids, viscosupplements to cushion the joints, and finally surgery to repair joints are all possible treatment options.

CALYPSO KNEE SYSTEM: The Calypso Knee System for knee OA is designed to treat the pain by absorbing the excess load placed on your joint. Usually affecting the inner side of the knee, this system has been designed to specifically treat this type of pain. Once implanted, it works like a shock absorber for the knee, designed to restore within the joint a normal load balance. The device is implanted under the skin, alongside the knee joint, through an incision around six inches long. Unlike joint replacement procedures, nothing is removed (ligament, cartilage, bone). This can help to maintain future treatment options. The procedure is around an hour long, and patients can expect to be back on their feet right away. Most people are back to their normal activities within two months, and continue to progress as they get stronger.
(Source:, Dr. David Flanigan)