In 1966 John O’Connor, lecturer in engineering science, had a conversation with John Goodfellow, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, about ‘load bearing in human joints’. The fusion of their ideas led to a life-transforming invention.
They found that, in many patients requiring knee replacement for osteoarthritis, damage was limited to the surfaces of the bones at the front of the medial (inside) compartment; the cartilage in the lateral (outside) compartment and all the ligaments were still intact. They designed the first knee replacement which incorporated analogues of the natural menisci: partially mobile semi-lunar cartilages interposed between the surfaces of the bones to bring their dissimilar shapes into conformity and thereby spread the loads over larger areas of contact, greatly lowering the stresses in the bones.
The ‘Oxford Knee’ is therefore used mainly for medial unicompartmental replacement. It is less invasive than total knee replacement.
More recently, the surgeons Professor David Murray and Mr Chris Dodd, have developed a minimally invasive operative technique which does not require cutting of muscles, leading to rapid recovery of function.