Steamboat doctor recruiting for knee cartilage reconstruction study |

Steamboat doctor recruiting for knee cartilage reconstruction study

— A Steamboat Springs doctor is recruiting for a study of a new knee cartilage reconstruction surgery that could replace the traditional method of building scar tissue to reconstruct damaged cartilage.

Dr. Alex Meininger, of Steamboat Orthopedic Associates, is one of a handful of doctors nationwide — and the only doctor in Colorado — accepting patients for the FDA study, which uses the NOVOCART 3D transplant.

The NOVOCART procedure involves harvesting healthy cartilage cells from an undamaged area of the patient’s knee and sending them to a bioreactor, which multiplies the cells a million-fold onto a sponge, which is then implanted back into the patient’s knee.

The traditional method of knee cartilage reconstruction in the United States today is micro-fracture surgery, which stimulates the patient’s knee to grow scar tissue to replace damaged cartilage.

“The current treatments don’t offer a perfect or reliable cure,” Meininger said.

The NOVOCART procedure means patients will have new, healthy cartilage in their knees rather than scar tissue.

“The patient’s own cells are grown in the laboratory, and then implanted, or stitched, back into the knee,” Meininger said.

Meininger said he has a background and an interest in knee joint reconstruction and sees about 5 to 10 patients in his practice each month with knee damage.

The study seeks patients from an active demographic, 18 to 55 years old, to participate.

Of six patients recruited so far for the study, which will include Massachusetts General Hospital and Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, two of the patients are Meininger’s.

Meininger said he’s evaluating his own patients and accepting referrals from physicians at Yampa Valley Medical Center and throughout Colorado.

Those who sign on for the study will have a 2:1 chance of receiving the NOVOCART transplant versus receiving the traditional treatment.

Patients will begin by undergoing and one-hour surgery regardless of which treatment they are receiving and will find out after waking up whether they received the NOVOCART or the traditional surgery.

If they received the NOVOCART, they will later undergo a second surgery to implant the sponge of new multiplied cells back into their knees.

Nationwide, the study is seeking 50 patients each year for two years, and patients could be involved with the study for up to five years.

Meininger said he’s hopeful the new procedure, which is already used in Europe, will be successful and that the U.S. will start using it regularly.

“It’s been proven successful there, and I hope we can replicate it,” he said.

Steamboat Orthopedic Associates nurse and office manager Laurel Martin is the study coordinator in Steamboat.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

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