New knee replacement surgery part robot, part video game


by KING 5 Healthlink

Posted on March 14, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:45 AM

SEATTLE -- Doctors at  Swedish Orthopedic Institute have taken partial new replacements to a new level with a surgery that is part robot, part video game.

Six weeks ago, Al Vanderlught walked with a limp. Arthritis in his left knee meant constant pain. 

"The less I did, my weight tended to creep up and that made it worse," he said.

Vanderlught was one of the first patients at Swedish Orthopedic Institute to undergo a partial knee replacement, utilizing the help of a  robot.

First, Dr. James Crutcher maps out the damaged area of the knee in 3D.

"Perfect yes, bulls-eye. We're within a fraction of  a millimeter of where we want to be," said Dr. Crutcher. "Okay, ready to go."

The bone to be removed shows up as green on his video console,

"The green is kind of like mowing the lawn there or scrubbing the floors. so you're removing all that green material which is the bone you want to remove," said Dr. Crutcher.

The MAKO robot helps surgeons avoid mistakes.

"When I got down to white, I couldn't go deeper if I wanted to. It stops you from removing too much bone," he said.

That kind of precision makes for a custom fit and a quicker recovery. Because the surgery spares healthy bone, that's good news for younger patients who will still have the option of a full knee replacement later on.

"We are doing it earlier because we found  people are doing better. They're getting better results. The implants are lasting longer. Conversely we found in other studies, if you wait too long to have you're joint replacement done, the outcome may not be as good," said Dr. Crutcher.

Al says the surgery has been life-changing.

"It's a huge difference. I'd forgotten what it was like to walk pain free and it's a really, really major thing. It's wonderful," he said.

Tuesday, March 15 from 7-9 a.m., Swedish will be streaming one of these surgeries live online with Dr. Crutcher providing commentary and answering viewer questions. Click the link above to watch the surgery.