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ROBOTIC KNEE REPLACEMENTS

Research shows some pros and cons, but this technology is here to stay.

June 2, 2024

WHAT IS ROBOTIC-ASSISTED KNEE REPLACEMENT?

 

Robotic knee replacement is a surgical procedure that involves the use of a robotic arm to assist in the placement of an artificial knee joint. It combines the precision of robotic assistance with the expertise of the surgeon to improve the accuracy of the implant positioning and alignment.  

 

It is important to note that the robot does not perform the surgery.  The surgeon guides the robot, not the other way around.  This is why the technology is termed robotic-assisted knee replacement.  The robot's purpose is to provide the surgeon with additional data points that are unavailable with traditional knee replacement instruments.

 

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

There are several reported benefits for robotic knee replacements:

 

  • More precise surgical planning

  • More precise bone cuts and placement of the implant components

  • More objective data available during surgery such as quantification of soft tissue gaps and angles of bone cuts

  • More accurate component placement

  • Better short-term outcomes:  less postoperative pain, better early knee function

 

WHAT ARE THE DOWNSIDES?

 

Every new technology has downsides, so let’s be fair and discuss why less than half of the surgeons I know have adopted robotic knee replacement into their practice. 

 

Research has shown some advantages described above, but it’s not overwhelmingly in favor of robotic knee replacement.  Some studies show no difference in even short-term outcomes compared to using traditional knee replacement methods.  There is no convincing data available that this technology improves long-term outcomes.  The use of the robot increases the cost of the procedure (not for the patient, but for the medical system in general) and might increase the duration of surgery.  In my practice, I must make a slightly longer skin incision for robotic knee replacements to accommodate the guidance pins.

 

WHAT SYSTEM DOES DR. KOONCE USE?

 

Dr. Koonce started using the VELYS Robotic-Assisted Solution for knee replacements in January 2024.  Click the link below to find out more:

 

 

 

WHY NOW?

 

While robotic-assisted surgery is not as prominent in knee replacements as in other types of surgery such as abdominal and urological procedures, I believe that the use of robots for knee replacement will continue to rise over the next 20 years.  As a surgeon in an academic institution, I want to stay at the forefront of technology, and I hope to help guide where this technology trends in the future.  I was skeptical about robotic knee replacements at first, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how the objective data and feedback I receive in surgery helps me achieve more consistent outcomes. 

 

All of this being said, the use of the robot in a surgeon’s practice is based on their preferences and training.  There is no right or wrong.  I would be confident having my knee replaced with or without this technology.  The most important factors in achieving good outcomes are finding the right surgeon and sticking to your rehabilitation plan after surgery.

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