Demand for joint replacements in the United States is on the rise, with total knee replacements expected to increase by 673 percent by 2030, and total hip replacements by 174 percent. With studies showing that up to 30 percent of today’s patients are unsatisfied after traditional joint replacement surgery, there is a clear opportunity for robotics to step in and revolutionize orthopedics.
Medical technology company Stryker acquired the joint-replacement robot producer Mako for nearly $1.65 billion in 2013, confident that robotics would have a key part to play in the future of knee and hip surgery. The Mako system offers partial and total knee replacement and total hip applications.
Littleton Adventist Hospital in Denver is the latest practise to put its faith in the robot-assisted surgery. With Mako reportedly costing upwards of $1 million dollars, it’s a huge investment at a time when many practises are looking to reduce their orthopaedic costs.
However, the robotic-arm can drastically enhance knee and hip operations, increasing their success rate and decreasing recovery times – meaning long-term costs should help offset the initial outlay.
How robot-assisted joint replacement works
“The Mako robotic-arm allows us to provide each patient with a personalized surgical experience that’s specifically tailored to their needs and anatomy,” said Dr Robert Thomas, who performs joint replacements at Littleton Adventist. “Using a virtual 3D model, the Mako system allows surgeons to design each patient’s surgical plan prior to surgery for more precise implant placement.”
Partial knee replacements (PKR) are designed to relieve the pain caused by osteoarthritis (OA). By targeting the part of your knee damaged by OA, a surgeon can replace the diseased bone while helping to spare the healthy areas and ligaments surrounding it.
Mako technology can enhance this process by providing a CT-derived, patient-specific 3D model to pre-plan the partial knee replacement. This enables accurate planning of implant size and alignment.
During an operation, the surgeon guides the Mako robotic-arm, which will limit the their movements, as they prepare the bone for the implant, to within the boundaries set by the pre-plan. This means only the diseased bone is removed. The robot will then help with positioning the implant based on the patient’s anatomy.
“We’re proud to be the first facility in our area to offer this advanced robotic technology,” said Michael Brendel, chief operating officer at Littleton Adventist. “This demonstrates our commitment to precision medicine and expands our regional leadership in robotic surgery.”
Image Credit: Stryker