Advances in Treatment: Introducing Robotic Knee Surgery
When taking on painful knee conditions like osteoarthritis, partial or total knee replacement is often indicated. Replacing degenerating joints with prosthetics is known to relieve many problems, but traditional approaches to these surgeries have not always succeeded. While, taken together, these treatments have complications in only about 2 percent of cases with a robust 90 percent of patients reporting reduction in pain afterwards,  issues do arise. In some cases, these are the result of human error or lack of precision during surgery.
Enter the latest advance in this kind of treatment: the Mako Total Knee robotic knee replacement. This approach—which relies on a special robotic arm to assist in surgery—is quite new, having first been launched in 2017.  In a short time, it’s developed a reputation for improving outcomes in patients.
What’s the deal with this approach and what makes it so promising as an approach to knee osteoarthritis? Let’s take a look:
An Integrated Approach
Essential to any knee replacement surgery is good imaging of the problem area. The Mako system relies on high-quality CT scans of the knee, with which the device is able to create interactive and accurate 3D images of the knee. This then provides extra intra-operative guidance to the surgeon. The quality of this information is certainly one advantage of the system as doctors work from a fuller-scale representation of the problem area.
The surgery itself is done via a robotic arm that’s guided by the surgeon; this allows for smaller incisions, and more exact work in resurfacing the relevant bones and placing the prosthetic. Notably, the robotic arm is an assistant in the procedure—it isn’t working autonomously and is under full control of the doctor. Since the work is more exact, recovery is expected to be quicker than with more standard procedures.
Reduction in Risk
Longer term results are harder to come by since Mako Total Knee is newer, but initial outcomes show solid reduction in complication rates. According to Stuart Simpson, VP of the Stryker Company that fabricates these devices, “you’re seeing revision rates of partial knees with Mako of about half a percent versus revision rates of non-Mako procedures of about 3.5 percent,” which is “a big, significant clinical quality improvement.”  Furthermore, he notes a 36 percent decline in 30-day complication rates and a 66 percent reduction at 90-days.
Obviously, Simpson is a spokesperson for the company, so he might be a bit biased; however, a number of recent studies have backed up his claims. For instance, in comparing robotic-assisted knee replacement with more traditional types, a team of researchers under the direction of Dr. Mark J. G. Blyth at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in the UK, found a distinct advantage for the former. In comparing data from 139 patients split evenly between the two methods, “[r]obotic arm-assisted surgery result[ed] in improved early pain scores and early function scores in some patient-reported outcomes measures.” 
Clearly, there’s an advantage in the interface of a human surgeon’s expertise with robotic supplementation.
A Brighter Future
The good news about the Mako system is that it’s making its way into more and more clinics. Doctors are increasingly seeing the advantages of working alongside cutting-edge technology to improve outcomes. Since knee osteoarthritis is quite common and has been on the rise—in fact the prevalence has more than doubled since the 1950s —it’s heartening to know that our treatments for it are continuing to improve. What’s most important, of course, is that patients emerge from treatment free-of-pain and able to live as they did before the problems arose. With the Mako Total Knee robotic-system under the direction of dedicated surgeons, outcomes will continue to improve.
The experts at Onward Orthopedics use the latest and best in techniques and technologies to ensure positive outcomes for a variety of knee problems. Among many approaches available, these surgeons proudly employ the Mako system as part of a comprehensive, dedicated approach to care. Learn more about what they do by calling (800) 577-1693 today!
- “Knee Replacement Surgery Success Rate, Statistics, And Outcomes”. 2018. Healthline. Accessed December 22 2018. https://www.healthline.com/health/total-knee-replacement-surgery/outcomes-statistics-success-rate.
- Parmar, Arundhati, Stephanie Baum, Alaric DeArment, Erin Dietsche, and Kevin Truong. 2017. “Stryker Launches Expensive Mako Robot For Knee Replacement In Cost-Conscious Era – Medcity News”. Medcity News. Accessed December 22 2018. https://medcitynews.com/2017/03/stryker-launches-expensive-mako-robot-knee-replacement-cost-conscious-era/.
- Blyth, M. J. G., I. Anthony, P. Rowe, M. S. Banger, A. MacLean, and B. Jones. 2017. “Robotic Arm-Assisted Versus Conventional Unicompartmental Knee Arthroplasty”. Bone & Joint Research6 (11): 631-639. British Editorial Society of Bone & Joint Surgery. doi:10.1302/2046-3758.611.bjr-2017-0060.r1.
- Wallace, Ian J., Steven Worthington, David T. Felson, Robert D. Jurmain, Kimberly T. Wren, Heli Maijanen, Robert J. Woods, and Daniel E. Lieberman. 2017. “Knee Osteoarthritis Has Doubled In Prevalence Since The Mid-20Th Century”. Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences114 (35): 9332-9336. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. doi:10.1073/pnas.1703856114.