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For individuals who suffer daily with joint pain, replacement of a knee or a hip can be a truly transformative procedure. Technological advancements within the field of orthopedics have made joint replacement surgery more successful for both surgeons and the patients themselves.
Specifically, Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Technology has allowed a degree of customization and precision that was previously unattainable.
“In the past, we’ve done guided resections where you cut a specific amount of bone, but that doesn’t always take into account some of the soft tissues,” states Dr. Christopher Hamilton, orthopedic surgeon with the Southern California Orthopedic Institute in conjunction with Dignity Health. “The robotic assisted arm has allowed us to take this to the next level. We can define a patient’s specific anatomy and define what cuts are best. And, more importantly, put the replacement in the right position with the right balance for each specific patient.”
The major advantages of using robotics include greater accuracy with surgical plans and less ligament and associated damage. Many patients have lower pain scores than those who have undergone conventional replacements. “By and large, we have had equal or higher satisfaction scores in patients who have undergone standard replacements,” shares Dr. Hamilton.
From the patient perspective, the primary goal is to achieve the “forgotten knee,” meaning patients are doing so well with their replacement they almost forget they have undergone the procedure.
“In other words, we would like to get a patient back to as close to normal as they were before they had their onset of arthritis or progression of arthritis,” explains Dr. Hamilton. “Now, it’s not realistic to think we’re going to make a patient feel 18 years old again, but if we can get a patient back to their quality of life without thinking about their knee or making lifestyle concessions for their knee after replacement, that’s what we consider to be a forgotten knee.”
Patients who make the best candidates for Mako include those needing partial knee replacements, individuals with difficult or complex deformities, and patients in whom a conventional knee replacement raises concern. However, Dr. Hamilton notes that almost every patient is a reasonable candidate for Mako, simply because of its precision.
He also dispels the notion that the robot is actually performing the procedure. Rather, robotic technology helps surgeons make precise and accurate cuts and allows positioning of the implants to ensure a successful outcome.
“One of the very interesting things is that the Mako seems to make good surgeons even better surgeons. And sometimes, you don’t know what you don’t know until you find something that improves what you were doing before,” shares Dr. Hamilton.
Regardless of whether or not Mako technology is employed, Dr. Hamilton stresses that joint replacement is one of the major life-improving operations in modern medicine and encourages patients to choose to not live in pain.
“Replacement of a knee or a hip can be life changing for patients. It can allow them to get back to a pain-free life, to enjoy their family, to exercise, to return to some athletics. In general, it has been extremely successful for more than 90 percent of the patients who undergo joint replacement.”