New MAKO system at Saint Agnes helping with knee replacement surgeries

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dr. Matt Knedel checks on Evelyn Morris's knee to make sure her recovery is as smooth as her surgery was.

The 77-year-old from Fresno just had her left knee replaced at Saint Agnes Medical Center. Both knees were worn out leading to some scary spills.

"The left knee was in worse shape than the right knee but I had torn the cartilage on the right knee, so it was making me fall," she said.

But now the 77-year-old is steady on her feet and recovering quickly after Dr. Knedel used the latest robotic-assisted surgical technique.

"I trust him to do what was best but he said it had to be precision and that's what the robot was for, precision," she said.

To get a first-hand look at that future, we suited up for exclusive access to the Saint Agnes OR, where the MAKO Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery System helps doctors deliver a tailor-made knee replacement for each patient.

In this animation and video provided by Stryker, the maker of the MAKO system, a CT scan of the patient's knee is the first step.

A 3-D virtual model is made from that CT scan and then loaded into MAKO to make a pre-operative plan that's customized to the patient's anatomy.

The surgeon guides the robotic arm to remove the arthritic bone and cartilage from the knee.

During surgery, the system provides resistance and visual cues to prevent the surgeon from removing more than the diseased area. Then, implants are inserted for a perfect fit.

"Accuracy is in every aspect of the process. These numbers are millimeter measurements provided in real time during the surgery. In the traditional method, the surgeon would have to estimate these numbers.

MAKO's precision, that's beyond human capability, means real results for patients.

"Patients walk the same day of surgery and they start PT within three days of their surgery, so they're actually quite active," Dr. Knedel said.

Staying active is what Evelyn is all about.

She doesn't miss a physical therapy session so she can get back to being with family, tending to her roses and defying her age.

Like her cat, Evelyn has a lot of lives left.

"Feels great," she said. "I'm glad I had it done."

The Saint Agnes Foundation raised nearly $250,000, a challenge during the pandemic, to help pay for the $1 million MAKO system.

The robotic-assisted surgery is not considered "outside" health insurance so it's covered by most plans.

Partial and full knee replacements are currently being done at Saint Agnes Medical Center.

The next phase is to perform hip replacements with the technology.
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