An orthopedist who performs orthopedic procedures at Bladen County Hospital has been certified to perform a new type of knee surgery that could help patients who suffer from debilitating arthritis stay active.
Dr. Darrin F. Eakins of Atlantic Orthopedics, PA, is one of a select group of surgeons nationwide to perform this minimally invasive procedure.
For patients with the proper indications, Dr. Eakins inserts a small metallic kidney-shaped device called the UniSpacer( Knee System in the knee joint to replace damaged cartilage and help restore alignment. The device stays in place without cement or screws and follows the normal motion of each individual's knee.
"This is a completely new approach to treating early-stage ostcoarthritis of the knees, said Dr. Eakins, whose company maintains an satellite office in Elizabethtown. "There have been similar products tried in the past, but none that freely rotated with the natural motion of the knee.
"This is what makes the Unispacer so innovative and also very technically demanding to insert. There is a real art to getting the device to glide naturally as the knee bends. This is also why it takes special training and certification in order to implant the device. A portion of the procedure is performed arthroscopically which makes the incision used to insert the device very small," Dr. Eakins added.
Traditionally, the primary long-term solution for patients with severe knee pain was knee replacement surgery, in which the surgeon replaces the damaged knee with an artificial implant. Surgeons are generally reluctant to perform replacement surgery on younger, more active patients because of the irreversible removal of bone required.
The UniSpacer is innovative because it is a minimally invasive device that integrates with the natural bone structure. Because the UniSpacer does not require fixation or bone cuts, it does not compromise future conversion to total knee replacement.
"This device can help relieve pain and get patients back on their feet," said Dr. Eakins. "Best of all, patients retain their natural anatomy."
The procedure is conducted under general or regional anesthesia and generally takes about one hour to complete. Most patients are able to return to normal activities within a few months.
The UniSpacer was cleared for use in the U.S. and is only available through specially trained surgeons.
Dr. Eakins, who obtained his medical degree from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, has special interests in sports medicine and cartilage repair.
A North Carolina native, Dr. Eakins is one of 11 orthopedic physicians of Atlantic Orthopedics, PA, the largest orthopedic practice in eastern North Carolina.
The company, which is headquartered in Wilmington, has other satellite offices in Burgaw, Hampstead, and Jacksonville.