GPS Knee Replacement

11/12/2008 BATON ROUGE, La. Just a few months ago, Dolores Sams couldn't walk without a cane. Stairs were even more of a feat.

"Forget it … I wasn't doing stairs," she told Ivanhoe. "If there were three steps to go up, then I didn't go there."

Robert N. Moukarzel, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at Ochsner Medical Center in Baton Rouge, La., told Dolores she was a good candidate for a new kind of knee replacement surgery. It utilizes a computerized navigational system that's similar to GPS.

"Like the navigation in your car, it directs you to the easiest way and the straightest way to get to your destination," Dr. Moukarzel explained.

In surgery, infrared camera images from inside the knee feed into a computer. Then, a tracking system provides a surgical roadmap and directs the placement of the artificial knee.

"The computer gives us information back about how to cut the bones to get better alignment and a more precise alignment," he said.

This approach allows for a smaller incision, and in his practice, Dr. Moukarzel says he's seeing less blood loss, fewer complications and improved accuracy that may help the artificial knee last longer.

Four months after surgery, Sams can move her new knee comfortably. Stairs aren't off-limits any more and the pain is gone.

"Well, I have a life," she said. "I can go to the mall. I can buy groceries. I can visit friends and I can go up and down steps!"

She may be 75, but with her mobility back, Sams is definitely going places.

Dr. Moukarkel says this new GPS-like knee replacement procedure takes about 20 minutes longer than traditional knee replacement surgery, but it reduces the hospital stay for these patients by one full day.

Ochsner Medical Center
Baton Rouge, LA
Amy Delaney, Public Relations
(225) 236-5538


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