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Innovation in Motion - 40 Years of the Oxford Knee

Nuffield Health has produced a unique documentary video to mark 40 years of the invention of the Oxford Knee, one of the most successful and widely used partial knee replacements in the world. The Oxford Knee was invented by Professor John O’Connor of Oxford University’s Department of Engineering Science and Mr John Goodfellow, a consultant surgeon at the Nuffield Orthopeadic Centre in Oxford.

Chris Brunner, Senior Content Producer for hospitals and clinical services at Nuffield Health, has written about the inventors of the Oxford Knee and the breakthrough that revolutionised orthopaedic surgery. He writes about ‘Professor John O'Connor who was a lecturer of Engineering Science at the Department and in 1966 was seeking funding for structural joint research - the kind of joints you might find on an aeroplane. But misinterpretation of his intentions led to a chance encounter with Mr John Goodfellow, an orthopaedic surgeon and researcher at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre’.

Professor John O'ConnorProfessor O'Connor said: ‘Our collaboration continued right up until John died in 2011. In fact the day before he died we met to discuss a paper we had been working on’.

‘The two men combined their knowledge of the human body and engineering to work toward something medical science had so far failed to achieve - a reliable, long-lasting knee replacement.

‘Knee replacements usually work by cementing metal surfaces to the ends of the femoral and tibial bones in the leg and replacing the cartilage with a plastic bearing. The great idea was to make the bearing mobile, not fixed to one of the metal components. The mobile joint retained conformity with both surfaces over the full range of movement, preventing wear. It also allowed the knee joint to twist as well as bend, giving patients a more natural range of movement.

‘Ten years later, the fruits of their labour were realised when the first Oxford Knee was implanted in a patient in June 1976. Crucially, the Oxford Knee would go on to be used exclusively as a partial, or unicompartmental, knee replacement from 1982. In about half of the knees needing replacement the damage is confined to just one part of the knee. The Oxford Knee replaces this part while keeping all normal structures in place and preserving the ligaments. This gives a virtually normal function following surgery and a distinct advantage over total knee replacement’.

The Nuffield Health  video was produced with the help of the Department of Engineering Science, the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences and the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.

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