Surgical robot for knee repair

March 4, 2009 8:15:17 AM PST
Robots have had a place in manufacturing for a long time, and more and more are now making their way into medicine.

But instead of replacing doctors, these robots are designed to help surgeons do their job better - and hopefully help patients recover faster.

One of those robots is now an able assistant for knee surgery at a Philadelphia hospital.

Margaret Lawler is taking on her second physical therapy session, just one day after having partial knee replacement surgery.

Although she says her knee is stiff, it feels better than it has in the past.

Margaret recalls, "It was clicking, and giving out, and catching, and I was walking with a limp."

Margaret is trying to buy more time before having a total knee replacement.

And Dr. Jess Lonner of Pennsylvania Hospital says a new robotic guidance system can help.

He's using one of just 8 MAKO robots in the U.S. It's specifically designed for knee resurfacing that's done as part of partial knee replacement surgery.

Doctors first have to remove worn, arthritic surfaces and it has to be precise.

That's where MAKO comes in. Before the operation, using a 3D image, Dr. Lonner maps out the damaged bone to be removed.

"The robot then restrains us as we try to move the robotic hand around so we can't repair or remove bone outside of those margins. The precision is unprecedented," he says.

And Dr. Lonner says that precision helps provide a better fit for the artificial parts.

"We can adjust the position, depending on how we want the implant to sit," he says.

The doctor says the better the fit, the longer the replacement can last. Plus, it can lead to less pain and faster recovery for patients.

Dr. Lonner meets Margaret as she is leaving her physical therapy session.."We'll see you - couple weeks?"

"Take care," she says.

He says, "You too."

Dr. Lonner believes the MAKO robots will eventually be used for many other operations, such as for hip replacements, ankle and spinal surgeries.

For more information on MAKO, and this procedure, click here.

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