Robotic Orthopedic Surgery Overview

Mako robotic-arm assisted orthopedic surgery is used for partial and total knee replacements and total hip replacements at Mayo Clinic's campuses in Arizona, Florida and Rochester, MN.

During joint replacement procedures, a surgeon cuts away damaged bone and cartilage and replaces it with artificial components made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics and polymers.

  • Knee replacement. A total knee replacement involves the entire joint. But if only one section of the knee has been damaged, surgeons can replace just the damaged portion of the knee joint. This is called a partial knee replacement.
  • Total hip replacement. The hip is a ball-and-socket joint, and both sections of the joint are removed and replaced in a total hip replacement procedure.

How robotics can help

There are several different varieties of robotic assistance used for orthopedic surgery. At Mayo Clinic, a computerized tomography (CT) scan before the surgery is used to plan exactly how much bone should be removed and to aid in maximizing the accuracy of the alignment and placement of the implant. During the surgery, the robotic arm ensures that this plan is followed exactly — so that just enough but not too much bone is removed.

One of the most difficult aspects of joint replacement surgery is placing the individual components of the artificial joint in the best possible alignment so they will mesh together and work smoothly. The robotic arm provides tactile, visual and auditory feedback to assist the surgeon in achieving the desired orientation, which can enhance stability and mobility.

Ask your surgeon if robotic orthopedic surgery would be a good option for your situation.

Robotic-arm assisted knee resurfacing

Watch Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon Cedric J. Ortiguera, M.D., demonstrate how robotic-arm assisted knee resurfacing helps patients who need partial knee replacement.

Vivien Williams: Robots and video games. Two technologies that, believe it or not, are helping some surgeons perform more precise and effective operations for patients. Let's go to Mayo Clinic to see how doctors are using new tools for partial knee replacements.

This may look like a type of video game, but this technology, called robotic-arm assisted knee resurfacing, allows surgeons to do partial knee replacements more precisely than ever before.

Cedric Ortiguera, M.D., Mayo Clinic: While I'm doing the surgery on the patient, I'm also watching the screen.

Vivien Williams: The image on the screen is a computer-generated custom made map of a simulated patient's knee. It shows Dr. Cedric Ortiguera exactly where to operate. A robotic arm, equipped with a burr, keeps him from moving out of the targeted area.

Dr. Ortiguera: The robot actually guides us and prevents us from making any mistakes.

Mary O'Connor, M.D., Mayo Clinic: The advantage of using the robot to perform the partial knee replacement is really two-fold.

Vivien Williams: Doctor Mary O'Connor says first, it allows surgeons to remove less bone, which is good because new replacements don't last forever, and future surgeries are more successful if there's more bone for surgeons to work with. Second, it allows surgeons to align the implant and match it more precisely with the patient's anatomy.

Dr. O'Connor: We're using this robot because we feel that it is an advanced surgical tool to really allow us to provide a better surgical outcome for our patients.

Vivien Williams: Patients, like Lauren Whomsley.

Lauren Whomsley: You know, on a scale of 10, I was literally a five to six on a really good day.

Vivien Williams: Lauren was a good candidate for this procedure. She's young, and her osteoarthritis was confined to one area of her knee. She didn't need a full knee replacement, but the pain was bad. She couldn't do basic activities, like walking up stairs.

Lauren Whomsley: On the days that I was really, really sore, I would literally have to sit on the step and pull myself up step by step by step. I have 23 steps.

Vivien Williams: Being sedentary was tough for Lauren.

Lauren Whomsley: I'm a fly fisher woman, and I hike, two of my favorite things to do.

Vivien Williams: But she couldn't do them. So Lauren opted for the robotic arm assisted knee resurfacing. And now--

Lauren Whomsley: I'm back on the elliptical. I'm back on my bike.

Vivien Williams: She's back in action, knee pain free. Other benefits of the robotic arm assisted knee resurfacing may include less pain after surgery and a quicker recovery. That's because it's less invasive than other knee replacement procedures. Now, this procedure will not benefit all patients who need knee replacements due to wear and tear arthritis. So talk to your doctor to see if it might be right for you. For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.

April 01, 2022