Bio Uni: Bone Transplant Saves April’s Knee


PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — More than four million Americans are living with an artificial knee. It’s a solution that relieves the chronic pain of a worn-out joint. But the metal replacements only last for ten to twenty years, meaning it’s not a good option for everyone. Now there’s a new therapy that experts say could help young adults and even teens who are struggling with damaged knees.

From the time she was little, April Giles dominated on the soccer field and the basketball court.

“I was hoping to get into high school and play all four years, but other things came up,” April told Ivanhoe.

A misstep on the court and a blow to the knee left April with a painful injury. Doctors told her rest would heal it, but it kept coming back; she toughed it out for four years and three surgeries.

April explained, “It would hurt mainly when I would walk, but then it got to the point where it would hurt when I would sit or sleep. It was basically uncomfortable for weeks at a time.”

April’s mother Cathy, detailed, “On Easter Sunday, April came out of the shower crying; she was in a lot of pain. She said, ‘my knee locked.’”

Vonda Wright, M.D., M.S., an orthopedic surgeon at UPMC in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, determined a portion of April’s bone and cartilage had died and had come loose inside the joint.

“For kids like her that have a very large cartilage problem, there are not a lot of options,” explained Dr. Wright. (Read Full Interview)

But April was a good candidate for a new procedure, a graft of bone and cartilage together called a BioUni.  Dr. Wright used a small piece of donor bone.

“It’s like being on the transplant list, except we have a week instead of one day,” Dr. Wright told Ivanhoe.

When she opened April’s knee and prepared the bone, the donor piece fit into the opening where the graft will fuse with April’s knee.

“Our hope is that in a few years we will not be able to tell the difference,” said Dr. Wright.

Three months after surgery, April rejoined her high school marching band and is now swimming circles around the competition in her new sport.

“I don’t feel pain anymore,” said April.

Cathy detailed that she is just happy she can be a normal 16-year-old and get back to some of the things she likes to do.”

Dr. Wright said April and other patients who have this transplant do not need anti-rejection drugs because the same type of rejection that happens with soft-tissue organs does not happen with musculoskeletal tissue. She also advises her patients to avoid high-impact activities, but to be as active as possible.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Milvionne Chery, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.



TOPIC:       Bio Uni: Bone Transplant Saves April’s Knee

REPORT:   MB #4211


BACKGROUND: If you’re suffering from a stiff and painful knee that makes it difficult to perform common everyday activities, then a knee replacement surgery may be recommended by your doctor. Knee replacements are usually performed on people over the age of 50 that suffer from osteoarthritis. Nevertheless, young adults and teens may also go through a knee replacement due to an injury or a disease. More than 4.7 million Americans are currently living with an artificial knee and the surgery is performed more often in women than in men.
(Source: &

KNEE REPLACEMENT: Approximately 90 percent of knee replacements last 10 years and about 80 percent function for 20 years. After the surgery, it is likely that the patient will be able to go back to daily activities and participate in sports; nevertheless, there is always the risk of complications like:

BIO UNI: Bio Uni is a new procedure that is being used for knee replacements. Normally, the implants used in this procedure are metal, but for patients with a lot of cartilage deficiency, there aren’t a lot of options for implants especially when metal is not an option. With this procedure, a donor bone is used. The procedure consists of opening the knee, preparing the bone, and fitting the donor piece into the opening where the graft will fuse with the knee. This means that another surgery probably won’t have to occur until 10 to 20 years after the initial procedure. Furthermore, there is no need for anti-rejection drugs because the rejection that occurs in soft-tissue organs does not occur in musculoskeletal tissue.
(Source: Dr. Vonda Wright)


UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Vonda Wright, M.D., M.S.

Read the entire Q&A