Bionic knee brace may prove to be a non-surgical option for knee osteoarthritis

There is new hope for the 14-million people across North America affected by knee osterarthritis. An innovative non-invasive option being studied by researchers at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) indicates that tricompartment unloader knee braces are effective for reducing forces throughout the knee.

The study modeled various configurations of Spring Loaded Technology’s knee braces, examining their effect on the forces experienced in all three knee compartments. The findings will be presented publicly for the first time at the Biennial Meeting of the Canadian Society of Biomechanics in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“We used a biomechanical model to simulate the forces acting on key structures within the knee during a deep knee bend, including contact forces, muscle tendon forces and ligament forces, with and without the assistance provided by the device’s spring loaded hinge,” says Chris A. McGibbon, professor at UNB and lead researcher. “The simulation results showed a 25 to 64 percent reduction in joint load depending on the configuration of the Spring Loaded brace, with statistically significant force reductions observed in all three compartments of the knee. This is an exciting finding that warrants further research.”

Studies using biomechanical data have been done with tibiofemoral unicompartment unloader knee braces – the current standard in osteoarthritis knee bracing – but not with a brace that unloads all three knee compartments simultaneously. Given that unicompartment tibiofemoral osteoarthritis accounts for a small fraction (less than 6% by some counts) of knee osteoarthritis cases, tricompartment unloaders present an opportunity to assist many more patients.

“Reducing total joint load is a best practice for the non-surgical management of knee osteoarthritis,” says Chris Cowper-Smith, CEO of Spring Loaded Technology, “We’re thrilled to offer a novel non-surgical option to those living with advanced knee osteoarthritis. One that can provide patients with immediate results in terms of pain management and improved mobility.”

Spring Loaded knee braces are the first and only braces on the market capable of unloading all three compartments of the knee. The passive-mechanical bionic hinge powered by a proprietary liquid spring allows this to happen. During the initial phase of a knee bend, the bionic hinge absorbs body weight and stores energy. Its adjustable energy storage and release (ESR) mechanism then returns that energy to assist leg extension, reducing the forces exerted on the knee by the quadriceps through the entire motion. With a possibility of a non-invasive option to aid in knee osteoarthritis, and with a growing elderly population, this product could help reduce unnecessary procedures and treatments, and give people more sense of ease.

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