Have you complained to your doctor about aching knees?

Did the doctor suggest a knee replacement? If so, you’re probably not surprised to find out that both knee and hip replacements are in the top five on the list of procedures performed at hospitals in the state, according to statistics compiled by the Colorado Hospital Association.

The number of joint-replacement procedures is only expected to grow as active baby boomers find their joints start to creak more and more.

With that in mind, a pat on the knee go to Boulder Community Hospital for recently receiving the “gold seal of approval” certification for its quality and safety standards for hip and knee replacement programs from The Joint Commission.

The nonprofit group headquartered in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, is the oldest independent health-care industry rating body in the nation.

Hospitals that received the knee and hip replacement certifications had to comply with high standards, including infection prevention and control, leadership and medication management, according to a press release from Boulder Community Hospital.

Just five hospitals in Colorado have earned the knee and hip replacement certifications, including Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, the only other one in the Boulder Valley.

Every hospital that wants to receive such additional certifications for special programs must first be accredited by The Joint Commission, said Bret Coons, a spokesman. Hospitals pay for independent teams from The Joint Commission to evaluate their programs.

If hospitals receive certifications in their areas of interest, they pay an annual fee to The Joint Commission as well as an on-site review fee in a follow-up that happens once in every two-year cycle, Coons said. Certification costs vary among certification programs, Coons said, without giving specific financial details.


Five-star fun

Workwell Occupational Medicine LLC is one of four companies in the Boulder Valley to get a five-star rating from insurance company Pinnacol Assurance to be listed in a special online directory.

The workers’ compensation care company was the only one in Boulder to get the five-star rating in the most recent online list put out by Pinnacol in March.

Some 27 health-care clinics received the rating in Colorado out of more than 200 surveyed.

The rating is part of Pinnacol’s Clinic Performance Initiative, which was released in May.

Other clinics in the area to receive the rating were Exempla-Northwest Family, Occupational Medicine and Physical Therapy’s office in Broomfield, Careplus Medical Center PC in Longmont and Longmont Clinic – Primary Care in Longmont.


A pipette medical device

Five University of Colorado-Boulder students spent months working on a medical device that can isolate a patient’s cancer cells quickly and inexpensively to make them available for genetic testing.

The group of mechanical-engineering students, along with researcher Wilbur Franklin, has filed a patent for the refined device. It’s basically a handheld grip the size of an electric toothbrush, a glass tube called a “pipette,” and a pump that helps move the cells from the patient to a slide where they can be examined.

While the device might sound like something that would have been created long ago, researchers found that existing techniques were either too expensive and technical or too “low-tech.”

The students were given a $2,250 budget to work on the device, which may be made in the future for about $1,000, said Aaron Lieberman, one of the students in the group.

The device is connected to a pump that aspirates cells, then expels them into a test tube. A push of a button sucks cells into the pipette, and another button push expels them. The students worked on making the button more precise after finding that it first sucked cells further into the pipette rather than expelling all of the cells.

“It doesn’t sound like rocket science, but it was surprisingly complex,” Lieberman said.

The students worked with Franklin, a University of Colorado Cancer Center researcher in Aurora, through a Design Center program on the CU-Boulder campus. Franklin already had built and patented a rough prototype of the device.

Now that the class is over, the CU Office of Technology Transfer at the Anschutz campus may license the technology to a company or to help Franklin connect with investors who have capital to invest in the technology, said Matthew Pink, licensing manager at the CU-Tech Transfer office at Anschutz.

“This technology is really exciting, and it’s ready to go,” Pink said.

In the meantime, some local hospitals have used the device in molecular testing, and Franklin thinks the market may grow organically.

“It should be an interesting adventure going forward. We’ll see how this product sells,” Franklin said.    

Beth Potter can be reached at 303-630-1944 or bpotter@bcbr.com.