Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Computer-Assisted Knee Replacement Surgery Benefits Patients Who Refuse to Take Arthritis Sitting Down

Increasing numbers of younger people are opting for knee replacement, unwilling to take arthritis pain sitting down. Surgical advances such as computer-assisted surgery have made it a viable option for people in their 40s and 50s.  

The main concern in younger individuals is that the implant will wear out. Although a knee replacement can last 20 years or even longer, it doesn't last forever. However, computer-assisted knee replacement, which makes the surgery ultra-precise, may prolong the life of the artificial joint.

The highly advanced, surgeon-controlled MAKO robotic system enables an extremely precise alignment and placement of the implant in patients who are candidates for a partial knee replacement, a less invasive surgery that is possible if the arthritis is limited to just one arthritic area of the knee.  

Before surgery, CT scans are taken of each patient's knee to assist surgeons in pre-planning the procedure. During surgery, a robotic arm uses computer-guided mapping software, similar to GPS, integrated into the surgical instruments. This gives each patient a surgery tailored to his or her individual anatomy.

Three dimensional high-definition visualization and the robotic arm guide the surgeon with visual, tactile, and auditory feedback. The digital tracking system constantly monitors and updates the patient’s anatomy and enables the surgeon to make real-time adjustments to optimize implant positioning and placement and to restore biomechanical alignment and joint motion.          

It is believed the computer-assisted surgery will allow the knee replacement to be implanted more accurately and therefore enable it to last longer since the implant will experience less wear and friction. Another advantage is that the robot-assisted procedure enables more bone to be preserved, an advantage in the event another knee replacement is needed down the road.

One patient who had a partial knee replacement in her early 50s periodically sends me photos of herself hiking and even rock climbing. Several years after the procedure, she’s doing great. Her case is dramatic. For most people, just being able to be pain-free and engage in everyday activities makes their quality of life so much better.