This month, the FDA approved a new implant intended to treat osteoarthritis, which will be available to patients very soon. The Synthetic Cartilage Implant (SCI) was produced by Cartiva, a pharmaceutical company that recently ran tests on the SCI that, according to Medscape, yielded medically significant results. This means that in a clinical trial, most patients reported a decrease in pain and that doctors considered the procedures successful overall when compared with patients who underwent fusion as a cure for damaged cartilage.
The announcement that the SCI had been approved for general medical application was particularly exciting for doctors because the SCI is the first implant of its kind. Other cartilage implants exist on the market, but this was the first model designed especially for the treatment of osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a specific kind of arthritis in which the cartilage or cushioning between joints begins to wear down. You can develop osteoarthritis at many different points where joints are cushioned by cartilage. Though osteoarthritis generally can’t be connected to any one cause, several factors make its onset more likely, including obesity, genetic history, overuse, and previous injury.
The SCI specifically treats osteoarthritis that affects the big toe. Before the invention of the SCI, the primary method of treating osteoarthritis in the feet was fusion. While fusion yields good results and is successful in treating the pain associated with damage to the joints of the toes, it is associated with a loss of motion in the affected toe and is generally a more complicated procedure. This new option presented by the SCI is particularly exciting because it can be done as an outpatient procedure within a half an hour. According to the study’s authors, as soon as the procedure has finished, the patient should be able to stand and put pressure on the foot.
The implant itself resembles a simple cube of biocompatible polymer. When put in place, the polymer acts very successfully as a cushion between the joints, and thus can easily take the place of the damaged cartilage once it has been removed.
Of course, this is still a surgical procedure and shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Even though it is a simpler procedure than fusion, in which the joint is actually fused using screws and plates, doctors will only recommend patients consider having an SCI placed if he or she feels that it is likely to have a significant effect on quality of life. Because osteoarthritis is often associated with pain that can have an effect on a person’s mobility, it does make sense to treat it quickly, so that the patient won’t be stuck with limited mobility and pain for an extended period of time.
In addition, it’s also likely to take some time before the SCI becomes widely available, though Cartiva does anticipate that it should be ready for national release in 2016. Even so, patients who are experiencing lots of difficulty and pain as a result of osteoarthritis that affects the toes should not necessarily wait for the polymer to become available. In long-term results, the SCI holds up similar to fusion surgery. So while patients might prefer the comfort and convenience of the SCI, there’s no reason to live with pain in the meantime. For individuals who are concerned about future osteoarthritis because of a family history, the introduction of this biomedical device bodes well for the future.
At the Spine Institute Northwest, we work hard to stay on top of the latest advances in medicine. To learn more about podiatry treatments at the Spine Institute Northwest, call 888-530-4621 and speak with one of our patient advocates, or make an appointment online.