PS185,000 RESEARCH BOOST; City doctor gets funding to tackle arthritis.
A COVENTRY doctor has been given charity funding to lead new research to prevent osteoarthritis after knee injuries. Specialist registrar Nicholas Smith will investigate whether a transplant to replace the "shock absorber" in the knee can reduce the risk of arthritis for some patients.
He has been given PS185,000 by Arthritis Research UK to carry out the project.
Mr Smith said: "The meniscus acts as a shock absorber for the knee and spreads the load across the weight bearing areas.
"If you take it out you increase the risk of osteoarthritis, so the idea of putting it back is to decrease the risk."
Meniscal tears in the cartilage are the most common form of knee injury. They are often caused by sport and lead to pain, swelling and locking of the knee.
At the moment surgeons often perform a meniscectomy to trim or remove the torn cartilage, which reduces pain, but increases the long term risk of osteoarthritis.
Those people who show early signs of developing the condition need a second operation, a meniscal transplant.
The operation has been performed by city surgeon Tim Spalding for several years. Now Mr Smith has been given the money to carry out a three year study into the impact of the surgery at University Hospital in Coventry and Rugby's St Cross.
He said: "At the moment meniscal transplant is done mainly for pain relief and is very successful; however some recent studies have suggested it may also protect against osteoarthritis. Our study may provide further evidence that this is the case."
Until recently imaging techniques were not sufficiently refined to assess small changes in cartilage that denote early arthritis accurately.
However, the development of sophisticated MRI scanning and sensitive software analysis packages means researchers can now detect early signs of arthritis in the joints.
Mr Smith plans to perform a small clinical trial to find out more about the effectiveness of meniscal transplantation in reducing the risk of osteoarthritis. He will recruit 20 people aged 16 to 50 who have pain after having a meniscectomy.
FUNDING: Nicholas Smith