As we move further into the 21st century, more and more of the amazing things that science fiction promised us are becoming reality. One fascinating technological development is the use of robots in a variety of applications – including orthopaedic surgery. There are many reasons to utilize robots in various medical procedures, and the evidence is growing that the advantages of doing so are numerous.
Robotic-assisted hip and knee surgery is quickly gaining in popularity, and for good reason. The data shows that overall, clinical outcomes and joint prosthesis survivorship are improved when robotic-assisted surgery is performed for unicompartmental knee arthroplasty, or UKA. This type of surgery is used to relieve the pain associated with partial joint degeneration caused by arthritis. UKA surgery targets only the damaged portion of the joint and preserves the remaining healthy cartilage. The main advantage of using a robot in this context is that it improves prosthesis position and alignment, which leads to a more positive outcome for the patient.
Robotic-assisted surgery can also improve outcomes for total knee arthroplasty (TKA). When the pain and disability of arthritis become severe, it may be necessary to replace the entire knee joint with an artificial joint, or prosthesis. Again, the primary advantage to using robotic-assisted surgery is to improve the position and alignment of the prosthesis.
As with knee surgery, hip surgery can also benefit from the high-tech touch. Total hip arthroplasty (THA) requires precise positioning of the hip socket for successful joint replacement, and surgical robots are able to achieve this precision more reliably than the naked eye.
There is a learning curve with robotic-assisted surgery that can add to the total time needed to perform the operation, on average 15 – 25 minutes. However, with experience, much of this extra time is cut down and the total procedure time approaches that of conventional hip and knee arthroplasty. As these technologies continue to be refined, their utility has become more apparent and has allowed orthopaedic surgeons to ensure the best outcome for their patients.