Fri, Oct 10, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan invents Asian prosthesis

UNIQUE MECHANISM The new total-knee prosthesis is the result of a three-year medical research project and takes into account Asian people's knee characteristics

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Unique new types of total-knee joint prostheses designed by the nation's scientists are displayed at a press conference yesterday.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

A reliable and robust total-knee prosthesis with a motion pattern closely resembling that of a real knee has been designed by Taiwanese scientists and will soon enter the market in Asia.

The prosthesis will benefit Asian patients who now suffer from discomfort caused by prostheses designed in the west, the National Science Council said yesterday.

A three-year scientific research project, sponsored by the council, led to the invention of three new types of total-knee joint prostheses which are more suitable for Asian patients.

According to Cheng Cheng-kung (鄭誠功), a biomedical engineering professor at National Yang Ming University, Asian kneecaps are relatively thinner than that of Westerners.

In addition, the shape of a section of Taiwanese people's shin bone near the knee joint is round, which differs somewhat from that of other people.

"Based on Asian characteristics, we further improved existing total-knee prostheses to minimize discomfort caused by loosening of joints, wear and breakage," Cheng said at a press conference yesterday.

In Taiwan, almost 8,000 operations involving total-knee prostheses are performed annually.

In the past, doctors used prostheses imported from either the US or Europe.

Five years ago, the Mackay Memorial Hospital began to use domestically designed and produced prostheses.

"So far, we have not had any failures," Mackay Memorial Hospital Superintendent Huang Chun-hsiung (黃俊雄) said.

The hospital is involved in governmental research to help design even better total-knee prostheses, which would be more durable and functional.

The research also involves Tzu Chi Hospital.

Yu Tzai-chiu (于載九), an orthopedist at Tzu Chi Hospital, stressed that there is no total knee-joint prosthesis that can mimic the complicated forms and surfaces and the "fuzzy biomechanics" of a healthy knee joint. A total-knee joint prosthesis is therefore a compromise mimicking only certain characteristics of the natural knee joint.

"For this reason we need to fix problems all the time, depending on effects we observe in patients," Yu said.

Meanwhile, the team's designs also help lowering the risks during operations caused by blood transfusions, anesthetics or diseases prevalent in older patients.

Applications for patent rights pertaining to the three new total-knee joint prostheses are being processed, the council said.

"The inventions upgrade Taiwan to a higher level in the biotechnology sector," said Tsay Chung-biau (蔡忠杓), director general of the council's department of engineering and applied sciences.

Jason Lin (林延生), chief operating officer of United Orthopedic Corp, said there could be a high demand for the new products in Asian countries such as South Korea and China, which have large percentages of older people.

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