Research by Mercy Health Physician Frank Noyes, MD Confirms that Meniscus Transplants Can Postpone Need for Knee Replacement by up to 10 Years

Mercy Health - Cincinnati, which provides advanced, quality care with compassion in your neighborhood through its care network, announces that updated research from Mercy Health Physician and internationally-renowned knee expert Frank Noyes, MD confirms that meniscus transplants can extend the life of the knee, postponing the need for knee replacement for up to 10 years.

Patient Jason Strauss, 42, who lives in Wisconsin, tore his meniscus playing baseball at age 16. He had knee surgery then and again at 21. Doctors removed his meniscus during the second surgery.

“I got arthritis in the knee right away and I was in pain. I was finishing my last year of college to be a teacher and realized that it would not be good to be on my feet 10-12 hours a day. I did research in the library and visited two doctors, one in Pittsburgh and Dr. Noyes in Cincinnati,” recalls Strauss. “Dr. Noyes performed my meniscus transplant in 1997. It was like night and day. It removed all the pain and I had great results for 12 years.”

Dr. Noyes has since performed a second meniscus transplant on Strauss.

“I coach my daughter’s soccer team, run and lift light weights and don’t have pain,” says Strauss. “I’m ecstatic with my quality of life.”

Dr. Noyes’ has followed 72 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. His latest follow-up study found that 69% of the transplants were still successful seven years after surgery and 45% were successful 10 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.

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. 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 we remove a meniscus, there are no options for patients who continue to experience knee pain other than a transplant or a knee replacement, which is major surgery that younger patients may have to undergo more than once in their lifetime. Our study looked at the success rates of meniscus transplants in staving off the need for a knee replacement.”

During 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 27 years in patients who are typically under the age of 50 and who have some arthritis in their knee and experience pain with activity.

“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 and help provide a good quality of life before other surgery may be necessary,” he says.