Researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina created a special human knee simulator that they hope will help improve various aspects of unicompartmental knee arthroplasty (UKA). Because every patient’s knee is unique, including how it is affected by arthritis over time, the success of surgery can vary greatly. Additionally, proper matching of implants to patients remains a hit-and-miss process that has the potential for a lot of improvement.
The new simulator provides a platform for testing various aspects of UKA using cadaveric knee specimens. The team hopes to test a great deal of alignment and ligament configurations and how they affect the movement and pressures within the knee. The hope is that this research will make UKA safer and more effective, making it a more commonly accepted procedure that is currently looked upon with a bit of skepticism from the orthopedic community.
Some details from the research team:
The rig has the advantages of being a reasonable simulation of the entire lower extremity in activities such as rising from a seated or crouching position while allowing measurements of internal loadings (contact pressures), which could not be performed accurately in a living patient. We are utilizing a motion tracking system that allows 3-D position tracking of the knee movement during simulation. The contact pressure and area of the articulating surfaces are measured using paper-thin film pressure sensors which can be inserted in between the knee joint.
We are currently working on validating the simulator to ensure its ability to capture the key motion characteristics of a normal knee with artificial bones and implant. The funding that we have recently received from OREF (Orthopaedic Research & Education Foundation) in collaboration with our clinical partners will be used to obtain cadaveric specimens needed to perform the stated UKA study. The results from the experiment will be analyzed and used to better understand the underlying causes of UKA failures, which will eventually lead to improvement in implant designs, surgical techniques, patient selection criteria and etc.