Knees: Could a better knee brace prevent replacement surgery?

DJO Global's OA Nano knee brace

DJO Global is hoping its OA Nano knee brace can help patients get a leg up on knee replacement surgery.

Calling it a "game-changer," DJO sales & marking director Brian Moore told MassDevice that at 14.2 ounces, the OA nano is the lightest knee brace of its kind in the world. And the Vista, Calif.-based medical device company is hoping more knee pain or osteoarthritis sufferers can use the brace to forgo total knee replacement surgery, possibly for years.

"Osteoarthritis is probably more relevant today than getting a sunburn," Moore told us. "1 in every 2 people has some form of osteoarthritis. If you get in a room, there’s definitely someone in there with knee pain."

He said that fact makes the market for the OA Nano, which costs between $500 and $1000 and is reimbursable by Medicare and Medicaid, potentially huge and largely untapped.

"An OA brace is really going to be worn like shoes," Moore said. "If you’re getting up and going, you’re wearing the brace. You can wear that brace 6 to 8 to 10 hours a day."

"People don’t like it to be an eyesore," he added. "They want it be be a piece of the apparel, so it’s got to look really good, it’s got to be very light-weight, because you’re wearing it all day long, and then it’s low-profile because it’s got to go beneath your clothes and not rub on your other leg."

The design comes from similar devices used by professional athletes, featuring patented technology that provides support and stability for the knee, but is toned down in weight and bulk in order to work for a wider audience.

"We have professional Motocross riders, we have guys how just broke the world record for surfing the largest wave in the world using our 4 points of leverage technology," Moore told us. "Then you’re marrying that with the real light-weight, low-profile OA Nano that any person – me, you, your mom, your grandmother – can use."

DJO launched commercial sales for the OA Nano last month, using a combination of direct sales and distribution with a staggered global release. The off-the-shelf braces, like OA Nano, tend to do better in international markets because the distance alone makes custom-fitting a brace difficult to manage, Moore said.

Reimbursement for the system has been "very successful," he added, as more insurers, including Medicare and Medicaid, mandate that physicians opt for more conservative approaches to treating osteoarthritis before resorting to knee replacement surgery.

"We’ve found out that out of 1000 people today, 58% of those people with knee problems let their pain and everything go on without getting treated because they figure it’ll go away," Moore said. "What really happens is that joint keeps deteriorating and turns into osteoarthritis, which is when you have to get a product or eventually a total knee replacement."

Looking at the average knee injury patient, who is between the ages of 16 to 24, half are likely to require knee surgery within 20 years, he said. Typical patients with osteoarthritis require surgery in their 40s, and may require revision surgeries several times over the course of their lives. The OA Nano, Moore said, can help patients get back to activity while keeping weight off the injury.

And with the lower profile, patients may be less likely to skip the brace.

"If it fits good, feels good, looks good and works good, they’ll wear it," Moore said.

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