New joint replacement technology heightens precision at Geisinger

PHOTO PROVIDED A stock photo shows the robotic arm used in Geisinger’s South Wilkes-Barre and Shamokin facilities to assist in joint replacement surgeries. Mako technology allows surgeons to create surgical plans personalized for each patient, make changes to those plans during operations, create 3D renderings of a patient’s bone anatomy and more

Robotic arm technology is rapidly growing in the field of health care, and Geisinger is working to be at the forefront with its new robotic-arm assisted knee and hip replacements through the Mako system.

As the baby-boom generation reaches retirement age, osteoarthritis patients will increase in number and robotic-arm technology will come in handy, said Dr. Michael Suk, orthopaedic surgeon and chief physician officer and chairman of the Geisinger Musuloskeletal Institute.

“Robotic arm is really the next logical step in the development of total joint-replacement technology. “It’s highly focused on precision,” Suk said. “We’re doing things now that just a couple decades ago we never thought would be needed or even possible.”

Osteoarthritis is caused by the natural progression of wear and tear on joints over time, causing pain, he said.

Total knee replacements in the United States are estimated to increase by 673 percent by 2030, while primary total hip replacements are estimated to increase by 174 percent, according to Geisinger.

The Mako technology enables surgeons to more accurately position a joint replacement on a patient, and that precision and care translates into a better and longer-performing artificial joint, as well as a faster post-operative recovery, Suk said.

“People are asking for this technology more so than we originally expected,” he said. “People are intrigued by it … the accuracy is so high.”

Three surgical procedures are made available with the Mako technology: total knee, partial knee and total hip replacements.

The total knee replacement option is designed to relieve pain caused by joint degeneration. The Mako system can render a 3D model of the patient’s bone anatomy, allowing surgeons to personalize a surgical plan. The system also allows surgeons to modify that plan during the operation and assists in executing bone resections.

A partial knee replacement is done for the same reasons, but occurs before osteoarthritis progresses to all three compartments of the knee. Early surgery can spare healthy bone and ligaments surrounding the knee joint.

Total hip replacements performed using Mako’s robotic arm technology to place the replacement acetabular cup, or an artificial socket that fits in the anatomical socket and guards it from further damage, have shown to be four times more accurate and reproducible than in manual total hip replacements.

Robotic-arm assisted knee and hip replacements are available at Geisinger’s South Wilkes-Barre and Shamokin Area campuses.

“If patients are good candidates for that type of procedure or elect to go for that procedure, we will schedule them at those campuses,” Suk said.

Geisinger is the only health provider in the region offering robotic-arm assisted surgery and is considering implementing the $1.2 million technology in its other campuses as well.

“As we become more comfortable with the technology and as patients not only ask for it but expect it, we’d be interested in rolling it out at all campuses and making it more widely available.” Suk said. “It’s expensive, but it’s an investment we’ve calculated very carefully and are willing to pay.”

“We’ve always done a good job doing these replacements, but it’s our ability not just to do ‘pretty good’ but ‘excellent,’ “ he said. “This technology just makes us that much better at it. By coupling technical expertise with Geisinger’s patient excellence, it’s really unmatched.”


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