The silk solution to knee replacement surgery

An ageing population, rising levels of obesity and more desk-bound jobs are behind the ever-growing rise in knee replacement surgery in the UK. It is estimated that more than 90,000 British men and women a year require knee replacement surgery to combat arthritis and joint pain.

Part of this growth has been the rise in knee replacement surgery required by a younger age group, with patients in their 50s and younger potentially needing this procedure. Up till now, research into the longevity of knee replacements has mainly been conducted in patients in their 70s and 80s and best estimates are that the implants will last approximately 15 years. As a result, technology companies are looking into ways to avoid the need for knee replacement surgery.

Orthox, an Oxford University-backed company, has recently developed implants made of silkworm fibroin. Twenty-five times stronger than high tensile steel, the fibroin is spun into tough, resilient implants that feel and act like cartilage when inserted into the knee joint.

Do I need knee replacement surgery?

Osteoarthritis is a condition affecting the joints; the surface of the joints become damaged, cartilage thins and causes discomfort and decreased mobility. This is often just the result of wear and tear which is why osteoarthritis is such a problem for the senior age group, but younger patients – in their twenties and thirties – that have incurred a sporting injury often see the early onset of osteoarthritis.

The silkworm cartilage implants are not available yet, but trials are due to start at the North Bristol NHS Trust with the hope that these implants could eventually reduce the amount of knee replacement procedures undertaken and, in particular, help younger patients rebuild their cartilage, avoiding the development of osteoarthritis and the need for a replacement knee at a later stage in life.

Mr Jonathan Webb is a leading UK consultant orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in all conditions relating to the knee, with a particular interest in soft tissue injury.

Mr Webb does not currently offer this silkworm technology – call us on 0203 195 2443 to discuss which treatment options Mr Webb offers or to arrange a consultation. Alternatively, please click this link to fill in a contact form and one of the team will be in touch.