Meniscus tears are a fairly common knee injury. Treatment typically involves complete or partial removal of the damaged meniscus. Without shock-absorbing role of the meniscus, however, patients are at risk for accelerated wear of the knee joint and osteoarthritis. Currently, patients have to wait for many years until they are eligible for a total knee replacement (TKR). Orthopedic surgeons lack options during this period, what they call the “treatment gap.”
ATRO Medical is working on another option for patients: a meniscus prosthesis. The Netherlands-based company was founded in 2016 and has been developing the Trammpolin, an anatomically shaped, non-biodegradable prosthesis that serves as a meniscus replacement for patients who would otherwise undergo TKR. The company was selected as a finalist in MedTech Innovator’s 2019 Showcase. In January 2020, the Trammpolin meniscus prosthesis received FDA Breakthrough Device Designation.
We asked CEO Jan Hunik about his company and the Trammpolin device.
Cici Zhou, Medgadget: Tell us about the founding of ATRO Medical. What was the inspiration behind the Trammpolin meniscus prosthesis?
Jan Hunik, ATRO Medical: There are approximately 1 million arthroscopic procedures in the US annually, and procedures for meniscus trauma often lead to removal of meniscus tissue. [We previously thought that] the meniscus has a limited function for the knee and removal has little consequences for the patient. This is not the reality and many people develop accelerated wear of their cartilage and chronic pain (osteoarthritis).
The current endpoint for these patients after (on average) 13 years of pain is a total knee replacement. This is a not a good solution for relatively young patients (below age of 65).
Although it seems odd, there is no meniscus prothesis on the market. Why not replace the dysfunctional native meniscus with an anatomical shaped meniscus prosthesis?
Medgadget: What makes the Trammpolin prosthesis special? Are there studies showing that it works and is better than traditional treatments?
We did not yet compare it to the traditional way of pain treatment: pain medication. However, we see in clinical practice that medication is only partly effective as this allows patients to maintain their daily activity level but requires stronger medication over the years.
Visco-supplementation and corticosteroid injections are also not effective, and it explains the rapid growth of total knee replacement (TKR) procedures in patients below 65 years of age. A TKR is highly invasive and has a low patient satisfaction in this age group compared to older patients. Trammpolin® is less invasive compared to TKR and preserves the native knee joint.
Medgadget: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the team?
The funding of orthopedic devices and completion of the human trials, which require 24 months follow-up to determine the effectiveness. The knee is a hostile environment and our big challenge remains the development of a sustainable implant that can resist the high forces in the knee.
Medgadget: Looking to the next 5-10 years, what are the biggest goals for ATRO Medical?
Every year approximately 75,000 new patients with osteoarthritis in the context of meniscus trauma and meniscectomy can greatly benefit from our device and regain their normal daily activity. We want to obtain FDA approval and postpone the TKR in the younger patient.
Link: Atro Medical homepage…