Traditional vs. Robotic Knee Replacement

15 June 2021

Severe knee pain can be debilitating. When conservative treatment options are not providing much-needed relief, a patient may consider whether they are a suitable candidate for knee replacement surgery. Surgery can be a transformative option. It’s an incredibly common procedure that over 65,000 Australians undergo every year. Patients affected by chronic conditions who opt for a knee replacement overwhelmingly report an increased range of motion, reduction of pain, and improved quality of life.

Mr Soong Chua is a leading orthopaedic surgeon in Melbourne who has extensive familiarity with knee replacement procedures. His years of experience have made him an exceptional practitioner with a trusted reputation for helping his patients thrive in highly active lifestyles.

Specialised orthopaedic surgeons such as Mr Soong Chua have been at the forefront of technological innovation in the musculoskeletal field for decades. One major development has been the increased utilisation of robotics in surgery. Today, many people choose to undergo a robotic knee replacement instead of traditional surgery.

Understandably, many people have questions about how this technology works. What is the role of the surgeon? What are the benefits? Are there significant risks?

This article summarises differences between traditional and robotic knee replacement surgery, details how the procedure works and answers common questions about benefits, risks, and developments.

 

Who needs knee replacement surgery?

Candidates for knee replacement surgery all experience very high levels of knee-related pain. Most patients have some form of advanced osteoarthritis (the degeneration of cartilage protecting bone joints). This is normally linked to aging; the majority of patients who undergo this procedure are over 60.

 

Signs and symptoms include

  • Pain when weightbearing (squatting, lifting, walking)
  • Significant discomfort when moving after periods of inactivity
  • Grating and grinding sensations in the joint
  • Serious sleep issues due to pain

 

Non-surgical treatment options

Not everyone needs surgery. Mr Soong Chua would consider a number of treatment options for people experiencing chronic knee pain before recommending an option such as a partial or total knee replacement.

Lifestyle changes can be a powerful, minimally invasive tool. Conditions like osteoarthritis are exacerbated by obesity and poor health, so changes to diet and exercise regime can be a significant assistance. Mobility aids may also be recommended.

Anti-inflammatory medications and cortisone shots have also proven to be highly effective in minimising the effects of ongoing knee pain. These are often combined with external treatments such as knee braces and physiotherapy.

 

Traditional vs. Robotic Knee Surgery

Unfortunately, for some patients with chronic conditions these forms of treatment are insufficient. At this juncture, a medical professional might suggest knee replacement surgery. During the procedure, a sophisticated replacement device is implanted into the knee, taking the place of severely damaged bone and cartilage

In traditional knee surgery, the surgeon manually performs the removal of the affected area and the subsequent insertion of the replacement component. This is a reliable and common method of completing surgery. However, human imprecision can sometimes result in malalignment of the joint.

Robotic knee surgery is still entirely managed and performed by a surgeon. But instead of responding to hand-measured specifications, a surgeon is instead guided by a mathematically precise computer program. These programs use CT scans, which exactly model a patient’s knee, to perform highly accurate alignments. Mr Soong Chua is trained to utilise the highly regarded Mako robot.

Robotic knee surgery is still entirely managed and performed by a surgeon. But instead of responding to hand-measured specifications, a surgeon is instead guided by a mathematically precise computer program.

 

Benefits of robotic procedures

There are a number of benefits to choosing a robotic knee replacement.

  • Highly accurate procedure and alignment
  • Precision personalised for each patient with pre-operative scan imaging
  • Lower impact incisions compared to traditional replacement surgery
  • Potentially less damage to surrounding ligaments and tissues
  • Frequently reported shorter recovery time
  • Patients often report a more ‘natural’ feeling long-term/less joint awareness
  • Able to be undertaken by younger patients (under 60)

 

Potential risks

Unfortunately, all surgeries have associated risks. Both traditional and robotic knee replacement surgery can sometimes result in

  • Allergy to anaesthetics
  • Infection
  • Blood clots

However, severe complications are rare. Proactive, preventative strategies can mitigate against risk. For example, Mr Soong Chua’s patients are all monitored closely by peri-operative physicians and physiotherapists when in the recovery phase of their treatment.

 

An experienced surgeon is always crucial

Whether you choose a traditional or robotic knee replacement surgery, the surgeon who performs it is critical. It is a highly sensitive procedure that requires an expert human hand at the helm.

Mr Soong Chua has performed over 200 knee replacement operations. His operative experience has been supported by research trips to the US, where he learnt under strict training requirements from surgeons experienced with the Mako robot model.

 

Get in touch with Mr Soong Chua’s team

Being informed about all of your options is one of the most important parts of making educated decisions to manage chronic knee pain.

If you have questions about the differences between traditional and robotic knee replacement surgery and whether you may be a suitable candidate for the procedure, please get in touch with Mr Soong Chua’s team today.

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