NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A promising new treatment for knee pain is helping many patients avoid surgery. The high-tech brace is bring relief to arthritis patients.
For years, physical therapists have used electrical stimulation to repair cartilage damaged by arthritis. Wearing a brace can remove pressure from joints and prevent further damage.
Now, a new device is combining both of those techniques – and studies show that it’s working.
Lynn Tarvyd, 66, has a large family and an adventurous spirit, but recently she says the pain from osteoarthritis of the knee changed her life.
“I could hardly walk, I was having to use a cane, couldn’t do stairs,” she says. “I have a two-story. I just got progressively worse.”
“Osteoarthritis affects 10 million people a year, about 400,000 to 500,000 have total knee replacements,” orthopedic surgeon Dr. Frederic Nicola says.
Tarvyd wanted to avoid surgery at all costs, so instead of going under the knife, she’s trying a knee brace, called OActive from BioniCare.
She wears the battery-powered sleeve most of the day.
“It unloads the knee joint, which gives immediate pain relief. There are also electrical fields that re-stimulate and re-grow the cartilage by turning back on cartilage cells, which – as we get older, as we develop arthritis – start to lose their function,” Dr. Nicola said.
Tarvyd’s been wearing the brace for about eight months, and she says it’s now just part of her daily routine – and it’s working.
“I can go up the stairs,” Tarvyd said. “Before, it was one at a time, like an old lady. Now, I just do the steps like a normal person.”
“Four-year studies have shown that 60 percent of people who wear this actually defer the total knee replacement,” Dr. Nicola said.
The BioniCare brace is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and is also covered by Medicare. The cost is around $1,500. There is also a version that is only worn at night, for those patients who would rather not wear the brace all day.