Robotic Assistance at the Cutting Edge of Knee Replacement Surgery

Robots are entering the operating theatre to assist with full knee replacement surgeries.

The robots are designed to help surgeons remove damaged knees with greater accuracy and insert new implants.

Tasmanian orthopaedic surgeon Josh Petterwood is an early adopter of the technology which became available in Australia late last year.

So far he has done more than 30 full knee replacements with the robot.

Orthopaedic surgeon, Josh Petterwood looks at a computer in his office.

“So far, so good. We’re finding really accurate results in the operating theatre and making post operative x-rays look straight up and down,” Mr Petterwood said.

“The patients are certainly finding that they’re up and going into their rehab quickly as well.”

The surgeons map out where the bone cuts will be made based on the patient’s anatomy, and the robot ensures the cutting tool does not stray from the plan.

“What we see now is this is providing sub-millimetre, sub-degree accuracy, and there’s no way that with hand-held instruments — a saw — that we normally use that we can achieve that,” he said.

The robot also helps with the placement of the knee implants.

“We can see what the computer predicts the knee will do once we’ve got the implants in, so we can make changes to this plan based on these graphs that we’re seeing,” Mr Petterwood said.

Mr Petterwood said 2 million Australians suffer from knee arthritis with more than 50,000 undergoing knee replacement surgery every year.

The robot doesn’t reduce operating times, but doctors hope it will decrease the number of patients returning for a second replacement.

“We’re looking at the flow-on effects of avoiding revision surgery which has been predicted to be increasing by 600 percent by 2030, so if we can bring that number down then it frees up the system to deal with more people,” Mr Petterwood said.

The technology is not widely available in the public system yet.

But Mr Petterwood said “all it takes is some collaboration between the university, industry and government to make that happen”.

Ron Massie before his knee replacement performed with robotic assistance.

Ron Massie, 82, had no hesitation in allowing a robot to assist with his knee replacement.

“It didn’t worry me, I didn’t give it a second thought to be honest … I thought it was all technology, improved technology,” he said.

Before his surgery Mr Massie said he was hoping to be pain-free and mobile.

“I played rugby union … and then I rode motorbikes and had few spills so I finished up with pretty bad knees,” he said.

The ABC was in the operating theatre when Mr Massie had his knee replaced and caught up with him a few days after the surgery.

He said he was happy with the results.

“Very good, I’m very pleased with how I feel, I’ve had very little pain,” he said.

After undergoing a traditional knee replacement 12 years ago, Mr Massie said he felt the robotically replaced knee compared favourably.

“A little better than last time I think, but it’s hard to tell it was 12 years ago. I’m very happy with what’s happened so far.”

Mr Massie has plans to return to his daily walks to the shop with his new knee.

Ron Massie in bed after his knee replacement surgery.Source