Research by Mercy Health Physician Frank Noyes, MD Finds that Meniscus Transplant May Postpone Need for Knee Replacement by up to 10 Years

(CINCINNATI; October 7, 2015) - Mercy Health - Cincinnati, which provides advanced, quality care with compassion in your neighborhood through its care network, announces that new research from Mercy Health Physician and internationally renowned knee expert Frank Noyes, MD has found that meniscus transplants may extend the life of the knee, postponing the need for knee replacement for up to 10 years.

The meniscus, which is made of cartilage, provides a cushion between the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone) and helps keep the knee stable no matter what the activity in which we are engaged. There are two menisci in the human knee - one on the inner portion (medial) and one on the outer portion (lateral) of the knee.

Patients who tear their meniscus can feel joint tenderness, pain and a catching feeling in the knee. Sometimes, if meniscus repair is not possible, the patient needs a meniscectomy, a procedure to remove injured or damaged cartilage from the knee joint, to relieve painful symptoms.

“The removal of the meniscus in the knee frequently leads to early arthritis – especially in younger active individuals,” says Dr. Noyes. “Once a meniscus is removed, ultimately, there are no options for patients who experience knee pain other than a transplant. Our study looked at the success rates of meniscus transplants in staving off the need for a knee replacement.”

In a meniscus transplant, an orthopaedic surgeon implants an intact meniscus from a young donor cadaver into the patient’s knee. Dr. Noyes has performed this operation at The Jewish Hospital – Mercy Health for 25 years in patients who are typically under the age of 50 and who have some arthritis in their knee and experience pain with activity.

Dr. Noyes’ study followed 40 meniscus transplant patients for an average of 11 years postoperatively. The patients had magnetic resonance images (MRIs) and x-rays taken of the knee with the transplant and doctors also noted their symptoms and performed clinical examinations of the patients’ knees.

Dr. Noyes found that 68% of the transplants were still successful at seven years and 48% at 10 years postoperatively. Eleven percent of patients with successful transplants experienced pain with daily activities but 72% were able to participate in low-impact athletics many years after surgery.

“This data indicates that meniscus transplants have the potential to delay the necessity for subsequent major operations and improve knee-related symptoms in younger patients who experience pain after meniscectomy,” says Dr. Noyes. “I recommend meniscus transplants after total meniscectomy in patients under 50 years of age who have knee pain and in those who also have some arthritis in their joint. This procedure is not curative in the long-term but it can buy time before other surgery may be necessary.”
The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery selected Dr. Noyes’ study as its lead study in August of this year. You can read the study here: http://jbjs.org/content/97/15/1209.