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There just might be an answer to painful bone on bone osteoarthritis. And it’s coming in the form of synthetic cartilage, developed by scientists at Georgia Tech and manufactured near AtlantaIt was recently implanted into the thumb of Indiana resident Becky Lambert at the Indiana Head to Shoulder Center by Dr. Greg Merrell. 

Becky was diagnosed with OA four years ago, starting with a pinching in her thumb that actually stopped her from playing piano. she is far from alone.  Thumb osteoarthritis is the most prevalent form of hand OA. It limits a person’s ability to open jars, button clothing, write and turn a key or doorknob.  The synthetic cartilage, called cartiva, has been used in Europe and early studies showed a 94 percent gain in grip strength.  Becky decided to take part in an FDA trial at the hand to shoulder center. Cartiva was implanted into her thumb joint,  March 2nd. 

“We’ll be making an incision  and will be drilling a little hole in the base of her thumb,” says Dr. Merrell.

The synthetic cartilage simply slips into that hole in the bone. The incision is sewn up and the healing should begin.

“We have an option now,” says dr. Merrell, “to replace just cartilage rather than whole joints. That is a significant step forward.”

Surgeons have used cartiva in other joints including knees and ankles.  If cartiva is proven to be a reliable option, it could be a game changer for thousands of patients. Osteoarthritis affects some 26 million Americans over the age of 60. If cartiva works here, this could be a significant improvement for thousands of women like Becky.

“This is a problem that affects a lot of women,” says Dr. Merrell. “It’s disabling enough that it makes it very difficult for them to do a lot of day to day activities.”

For more on the hand to shoulder center click on the link below.