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3 Things to Know About Robotic Joint Replacements

The 21st century has seen some astounding medical innovations. From developing more targeted cancer therapies to the revolution of information technology, technological advancements have changed the face of medicine for the better. However, when it comes to surgery, there is perhaps no branch of medicine that has advanced quite as much. Even in the past few decades, technological advancements in surgery have improved and refined techniques, outcomes and recovery times. Among the most notable advancements in surgery is the development of minimally invasive and robotic techniques such as Mako Robotic Surgery now being practiced throughout the United States and in the Fox Valley.

Ideally suited for joint surgeries such as total hip, total knee and partial knee replacements, Mako robotic-arm assisted surgery was first performed in 2006 and represents the latest in surgical advancement. Offering a higher level of customization and precision for implant alignment and positioning, robotic-arm assisted surgery has already been used in 83,000 hip and knee replacement procedures around the world. Sought after by orthopedic surgeons, and many a hip specialist and knee specialist from Green Bay to Oshkosh, robotic surgery is already enhancing outcomes across the United States.

Continue reading to learn more about robotic joint replacements, and why more patients are choosing this exciting medical innovation to plan their joint surgeries.

How It Works

When it comes to “robotic” surgery, many patients assume their surgery will be performed by a robot, however the term robotic surgery, or more commonly robotic-assisted surgery refers to the use of robotic technology by an orthopedic surgeon to enhance and plan their operations. With Stryker’s Mako Robotic Arm Assisted Surgery, surgeons are able to create patient-specific 3D plans using a CT scan to guide and develop a reconstruction plan. Taking into account each patient’s unique anatomy and ligament balance, surgery plans created with this technology offer a high degree of accuracy that prevents complications such as loosening and poor-fitting implants.

During surgery, the orthopedic surgeon will guide the Mako Robotic-Arm within the area defined by the plan. Using the Mako system, surgeons are more easily able to stay within their minute boundaries as the computer navigated surgery protects the patient against soft-tissue damage and provides a high-level of accuracy within a small incision. The Mako system’s precision is particularly pertinent when operating on patient’s suffering from degenerative bone and cartilage diseases, as affected areas may need to be removed during surgery without incurring further damage.

Why Choose Joint Replacement

Joint replacement surgeries and in particular, replacement surgeries on the hips and knees are among the most common orthopedic surgeries as a result of joint and bone diseases such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and post-traumatic arthritis. In rare cases, moderate deformities in the knee or hip may also require replacement surgery if unresolved through less-invasive therapies. However, joint replacement surgery is considered a major surgery, and carries with it all the associated risks, including: heart attack, stroke and even death. There is additionally, no guarantee of the surgery’s ultimate success as complications ranging from nerve damage and dislocation to persistent pain and weakness in the joint are known to occur.

Consequently, robotic replacements are considered minimally-invasive and use miniaturized instruments aided by a robotic-arm to allow surgeons the maximum range of motion and precision and a higher-degree of accuracy when it comes to surgery planning and implant insertion. Although eliminating any risk involved in surgery is impossible, robotic replacements carry less chance of post-surgery complications as a result of their high-degree of accuracy when it comes to positioning implants and removing damaged cartilage and bone.

What to Expect from Surgery and Recovery

As with all surgeries, robotic-assisted surgeries can elicit fear and anxiety in patients, and will require several weeks of rest and relaxation as the body heals. However, before surgery is booked, patients are carefully vetted and screened to ensure they’re an ideal candidate.

After surgery, an orthopedic surgeon or hip and knee specialist will help patients set recovery goals and may review a post-operative X-ray. As each patient is unique in their anatomy and recovery time, not all patients have the same recovery journey or activity level. Additionally, while robotic-assisted surgery enhances the accuracy of implant placement it does not extend its lifetime. Consequently, patients who undergo robotic replacements early on in life may still require a new replacement later on down the line.

One of the most frequently performed surgeries, it’s estimated that about 773,000 Americans undergo hip or knee replacements per year, and the number is growing, boosted by an aging population and advancements in medicine. A highly effective means of treating degenerative diseases affecting the bone and cartilage, successful joint replacements can greatly enhance a patient’s quality of life and relieve chronic pain and immobility associated with weakened joints. In fact, many individuals who undergo joint replacements go on to enjoy relatively active lives, and depending on their health prior to surgery may find themselves able to resume light physical activities such as swimming, hiking and cycling.

Although robotic-assisted surgery is a relatively new advancement, it’s minimally-invasive nature and precision gives surgeons unprecedented control over the area of the body they’re working on. Thus, robotic-assisted surgery is becoming increasingly more common as patients of knee specialists and hip specialists reap the benefits of minimal trauma and scarring to the body and improved recovery times. Although it’s unlikely that robots will ever perform surgeries without guidance from a surgeon, the addition of robotic assistance has enhanced surgical capabilities ranging from precision in cuts and suturing to improved visibility that helps to minimize surgeon fatigue. Increasingly available throughout the United States, patients interested in robotic joint replacements should visit a hip specialist or knee specialist to discuss their options.

Learn More

To learn more and to find out if robotic surgery is right for you, get started by requesting a consultation with one of the OSI orthopedic physicians utilizing Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted technology: Dr. David Eggert, Dr. Padraic Obma, or Dr. Kenneth Schaufelberger. Please call 920.560.1000 or request an appointment online. OSI is Northeast Wisconsin’s first provider of Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery for Hips & Knees.

OSI has convenient locations to serve you. The campus in Appleton includes a clinics, a surgery center, MRI, physical therapy, and a skilled nursing facility, as well as a walk-in clinic that provides care for new orthopedic injuries.

OSI has outreach clinics in De Pere (inside the NOVO Health Clinic), New London, Ripon, Shawano, Waupaca, and the newest location in Oshkosh (inside the NOVO Health Clinic).