DocTalk: Robotic Arm-Assisted Joint Replacement

Hip and knee replacement surgery alleviates pain and returns function to those who suffer from arthritic joints. Today these are successful surgeries, but it has not always been this way.

Early attempts at hip replacements had limited longevity and high complication rates and only allowed the patient limited function. Improved materials and techniques have allowed for the success we have seen in modern replacements. For instance, better plastics have almost eliminated the chance of wearing out a hip replacement in the short term. Cutting edge robotic technology is the next step forward for joint replacement surgery.

We know that joints perform better if they are well aligned and well balanced during the surgery. Robotic technology now allows for precision during surgery that far exceeds what a human alone can obtain. What once was left to the surgeon’s “feel” of a joint during surgery can now be confirmed with real objective data. A preoperative CT scan allows the robot to “see” the bony anatomy much better than a human who’s view is obstructed by the soft tissues during a surgical procedure. With robotic arm-assisted surgery the knee can essentially be aligned and balanced before the first bone cut is ever made. Robotic assistance allows for more accurate placement of the new hip components, up to four times better than a surgeon without robotic guidance. Robotic assisted surgery promises to take hip and knee replacement to a new level.

Newton Medical Center (NMC) is the second hospital in the state to offer Stryker’s Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Total Hip replacement procedures, with technology for total knee replacement expected this fall.

Dr. Pigg is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon at NMC.