The medical specialty of orthopedics and the associated prosthetics manufacturing industry, with their heavy production of titanium pins, screws, plates, bars and entire artificial joints, will soon become the most revolutionized branch of medicine, according to Olson.
Olson claims that the catalyst for this change will be the introduction of biological materials. As the technology continues to change, physicians will have the improved capacity to treat diseases at early and end stages. Biologics will eventually replace the amount of minimally invasive and joint replacement procedures used.
Olson predicts that, as biological treatments develop, the public will eventually view orthopedic procedures as less and less daunting. People may even see having them done as casually as filling a dental cavity. However, to reach this point, firms that create prosthetic products must discover ways to simplify biologically based procedures to garner widespread surgeon acceptance of them.
To continue to push innovation, these companies must also look for new sources of venture capital financing, which has dried up in the current economic climate. Olson expects some venture capitalists to return to the market and help propel the growth of the prosthetics production industry.
The longest and largest study on biologic knee joint repair, published in the British Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, indicates that arthritic patients can forestall, or in some cases, avoid, total knee replacement by opting for meniscal allograft transplantations performed concurrently with articular cartilage repair. This treatment replaces worn meniscus with donated tissue and uses the patient’s own stem cells for repair.
The results from this research could significantly impact the grown practice of artificial knee replacement. The number of artificial joint replacement surgeries is expected to increase to 3.4 million by the year 2030, with proportionate gains in cost as the baby boomer population continues to age.
According to study author, Dr. Kevin Stone, biologic joint repair is at the forefront of regenerative medicine. He claims that his patients often ask if there is a shock absorber that can be put into the knee. These patients are not ready to have an artificial joint placed in their knee.