Summary: Damage to the joints—the knuckles especially—can results in trauma to something called the meniscus, which is essentially a piece of tissue that keeps your joints moving with little friction, which would otherwise damage the bones and make moving a painful affair. When the meniscus is damaged the traditional solution is a silicone replacement, but a novel approach first practiced in New York might be changing that by using cadaver meniscus from a knee—with pain free results.

Painful Damage

Once in a while, often in the course of our daily activities—chopping onions, washing the car, emptying the dishwasher—we encounter a finger injury that changes the course of our lives. In most cases of hand injury, we’d seek out a specialist, such as Clear Lake hand surgery expert Dr. Charles Polsen, operating near Houston, TX. This is particularly true of damage the joints, which can make even the most regular day to day tasks, such as cooking, prohibitively painful.

Friction is the Enemy

Sometimes this joint pain exists because of damage to something called the meniscus, a small piece of tissue in your joint that helps keep your joint functioning smoothly. In other words, the meniscus provides a little bit of lubrication to your joint. When the meniscus is damaged, it’s equivalent to an engine without oil—eventually the friction will begin to cause damage to the bone.

Traditional Treatment

The traditional treatment for a damaged meniscus is a replacement with a silicone implant. This implant, in theory, replaces the function of the meniscus. But the truth of the matter is that the silicone often has a difficult time precisely replicating the function of the meniscus. This is especially true when it comes to eliminating friction, so those with silicone implants in their joints often still experience pain—though not to the same debilitating levels as before the corrective procedure.

Novel Treatment

But now a novel approach, first practiced out in New York and made public by Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, is aiming to change that and give patients a pain-free experience, at least, after the recovery period. This novel procedure involves using the meniscus from a cadaver knee joint and transplanting it into the finger joint of the recipient. The new meniscus tends to integrate rather easily into the new situation, given the flexibility of the tissue.

Quality of Life

The bottom line of this procedure type is that, even though it comes from a somewhat grisly source (though no more so than any other ethically sound organ donation), it improves the pain and mobility of the recipient of the tissue, generating a quality of life nearly identical to that before the initial trauma.

And that, of course, is the overall goal of any type of reconstructive hand surgery. Because the hand is particularly susceptible to any loss in mobility, that’s the number one concern of hand surgeons. It’s not difficult to recognize how vital working hands are to living the kind of life you want to live, and it’s an aspect hand surgeons in particular have a strong recognition of: you need your hands to do just about everything, from the daily activities to the epic adventures.

Mobility and Freedom

This new procedure will help return mobility to those who undergo it. In fact, according to the report published by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the patient who underwent this novel approach was able to re-engage in previously prohibited activities as quickly as several months after the reconstructive surgery. And in this way, freedom has been restored—after all, we can all get used to a certain amount of pain, but there’s no denying that when you’re pain free, you suddenly feel like you can accomplish anything. And that’s liberating.

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