Healing Arthritic Knees With a Robot

FRESNO, Calif.

A day playing golf is a day Herb Williams has been waiting a long time for. The life-long athlete is just getting back into the swing of things, after years of grueling pain with osteoarthritis brought him to his knees.

"The pain became more constant and aching, and you just wanted relief," Herb said.

Herb's doctor suggested a new surgery known as makoplasty.

"It uses a robotic arm that's connected to a high-speed burr to help remove only the diseased portion of the knee and allow for a quicker recovery with a more natural-feeling knee," Andrew Noble, M.D., an orthopedic Surgeon at Good Samaritan Medical center and Palm Beach Orthopedic Institute, said.

Using a 3D screen, the surgeon tells the computer where certain parts are on the knee, it basically matches up the CT scan to what we have in real life. Then , the robot comes in.

"So the robot is following the plan that we just made for how much bone needs to be removed as well as staying inside the lines," Dr. Noble said.

The green area is the bone the surgeon targets.

"He's making the movements of his hand based on what he's seeing on the monitor. Kind of like a joystick or controller of a videogame where you're watching a TV screen, moving the man around on the TV screen, but your hands are actually moving without you watching them," Dr. Noble said.

Putting herb back on the green in five weeks.

"My legs feel good, which is primary. That's what this is all about," Herb said.

The partial knee resurfacing is designed for those with early to mid stage osteoarthritis localized to one area of the knee. Most patients recover in a matter of weeks versus total knee replacement surgery, which can take months. The technology is also being looked at for use on hips.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at mhitchcock@ivanhoe.com

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