A new medical screw implant could ‘revolutionise’ major knee surgery, according to its inventors at Aberdeen University.
The fixation mechanism, developed in partnership with the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital in Birmingham, will help treat damage to the cruciate knee ligaments, a common injury for sportspeople.
The GraftBolt is stronger than existing devices and improves the quality of bonding between tendons and bones. This increases the reliability of surgery and reduces the need for follow-up procedures, said Aberdeen’s team leader Dr Bin Wang.
‘ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] injury affects around one in 3,500 people. It is commonly repaired using the patient’s own hamstring tendons to form a quadruple graft that is secured in the tibia — shin bone — and femur — upper leg bone.
‘The main cause of this is loss of graft fixation within the tibia in the early post-operative period.’
The team was funded by the NHS to study the rupture of the ACL, the main ligament in the middle of the knee, which stabilises the joint.
The resulting device was commercialised within five years by US orthopaedic device company Arthrex, and won the 2011 PraxisUnico Collaborative Impact Award.
‘GraftBolt aims to improve the patient’s quality of life by successfully repairing their injury first time and improving the quality of bonding of the graft to the bone, which speeds up the healing of the graft implant and hence improves the patient’s rehabilitation,’ said Wang.
‘The product has a higher “pullout strength” than the main competing product and therefore improves healthcare provision by increasing the reliability of the ACL reconstruction leading to fewer hospital readmissions for ACL reconstruction failure, which could lead to a cost saving to the NHS and other healthcare providers.
‘An ACL revision operation in the NHS costs £3,000–£3,500, and sometimes two operations are required. Thus, use of GraftBolt could save up to £6,000 per ACL reconstruction prevented.’
The NHS, which owns the intellectual property rights for GraftBolt, hopes to make it available later this year.