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New Surgical Mako Robot Speeds Recovery Time for Knee and Hip Replacements

How does this innovative robot improve knee and hip replacement procedures?

Recently, there has been an exciting development in joint replacement surgeries involving a new surgical robot. Not only is the new device expected to shorten recovery time by 30 percent; it may extend the mechanical life of the implant itself. The Mako robotic arm has two primary advantages: it permits the surgeon to prepare and plan the surgery on a computer and prevents the doctor from unintentionally cutting beyond the parameters he or she has created.

As with all innovative tools, it is imperative that patients consult with a highly skilled, cutting-edge orthopedic surgeon who is familiar with the device in question to understand which options are best in his or her particular case.

It’s too soon to determine whether the device will lead to better outcomes for knee and hip replacements. But early results show the computerized system improves alignment of joints which doctors say, should improve how long the implants will last.

How has this surgery been performed in the past?

Prior to the development of the Mako robotic arm, surgeons have used metal rods to evaluate joint alignment in order to determine where bone needed to be cut before the insertion of the metal implant it. According to one experienced surgeon, this type of planning stage depended on “eyeballing” the rod. Such lack of precision has caused many surgeries to fail over the past 30 years. For this reason, many surgeons became reluctant to perform partial knee replacements, preferring to opt for total knee replacements instead. Though the latter necessitated longer recovery periods, the surgeons felt these surgeries were safer and had more long-lasting results.

Advantages of the Mako Robot

Developed in 2006 by Mako Surgical, a Florida-based company, the medical robot was acquired by Stryker Corp. in 2013 and has now been FDA-approved for partial knee and total hip and Knee replacements. It has several advantages over previous devices, including:

  • It produces better outcomes with partial knee replacements during which the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligaments (PCL) can be preserved
  • Partial knee replacement results in a knee that feels much more like one’s own joint
  • The robotic arm results in much more precise alignment of the knee joint
  • If the surgeon strays more than a millimeter from the designated plan, the robot automatically shuts down, preventing excess bone loss or damage to adjacent ligaments.

The last benefit on this list is especially important, since misalignment of more than three degrees increases the risk that revision surgery will be necessary. The Mako robotic arm bodes well for longstanding success of the operative repair.

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