Experimental treatment offers relief to arthritis patients

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LONDON (CBS)  – One in four Americans is living with arthritis and struggling with aching bones and joints every day.  Research is underway in the US and Britain that could provide more options for long-term relief. 

Each day, Linda Docherty takes care of her grandson, Sullivan. at one time this simple act of picking him up, wouldn’t have been possible. 
 
”I would have been not only in a lot of pain holding him, but I’m not sure I would have been confident holding a baby with how my thumbs were,” said Linda Docherty, thumb implant patient. 

After a decade of unsuccessful injections, creams, and splints to treat her arthritis, Linda’s doctor, Philip Sauve, told her about an experimental treatment that uses a thumb implant.

”When he explained that I would be one of the first patients he’d operate on, I wasn’t scared, I was almost excited because I wanted it to work so bad.,” said Docherty. 

Dr. Sauve inserts a synthetic cartilage implant into the base of the thumb, so the bones don’t rub together. The Cartiva implant is different because surgeons don’t have to remove any bone. and patients are better able to pinch and grip things. 

”All of my patients have seen pain relief, range of movement, and pinch strength,” said Dr. Philip Sauve, trial surgeon. 

After years of suffering, Linda says she left the half hour surgery, pain-free. 
 
She appreciates the new independence, even in small ways.  
 
The synthetic cartilage is already available in the use for arthritis in the big toe. Doctors hope eventually it will be used for knees and other joints.
 
In addition to the United Kingdom, hospitals in 6 US cities New York City, Boston, Indianapolis, Rochester NY, Atlanta and San Diego are also involved in the thumb implant trial. 

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