Building A Better Knee

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - 9:30am

Bionic knee brace uses electric stimulation to help patients walk with less pain.

Osteoarthritis, when the cartilage between bones begins to wear away, is a painful problem for millions of Americans.

Now many are looking for alternative ways to avoid surgery.

Robert Schummer loves walking, but osteoarthritis has kept him stationary.

A complication from knee surgery in the past has him reluctant to go under the knife again.

He says he ran out of options until he tried the Bionicare knee system.

Orthopedic surgeon Todd Schwartz says Bionicare is an alternative for people who have tried and failed other non-surgical options, like medications, injections and braces before committing to surgery.

"This has been one extra part of my treatment for osteoarthritis in order to help prevent the pain and have people restore their normal lives and hopefully prevent or delay the surgical treatment option," he says.

The system uses a painless pulsed electronic stimulator which, it claims, helps repair damaged cartilage.

It's worn for 8 hours a day with a knee brace to reduce stress on the arthritic part of the knee, but not all doctors are ready to recommend this to their patients.

"I think we need to do more studies," says Dr. Gregory Deirmegian. "It has potential but the studies that show it regrows cartilage or can replace knee replacement surgery, I don't think it's fair to say at this point."

Dr. Deirmengian sees no potential harm in the product, but has one caveat.

"I would not advise a patient to spend a lot of money to try this brace because there are a lot cheaper alternatives that use the same concepts," he says.

Not all insurance companies cover it.

Patients often have to pay hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets.

Schummer's Bionicare is covered by insurance and he says at this point surgery is on the back-burner.

"Right now the doctor kind of thinks that's going to happen eventually," he says. "This is something that can postpone things. There's no stiffness and maybe less than half the pain and I'm only halfway through the process with this."

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