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Robotically-assisted knee surgeries limber up in WCape

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer
Johannesburg, 29 Oct 2021
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Mark van der Kaag performing a partial knee replacement using the Mako SmartRobotics surgical system.
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Mark van der Kaag performing a partial knee replacement using the Mako SmartRobotics surgical system.

The Western Cape’s Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital has introduced robotic-arm-assisted surgery for knee replacements as a permanent fixture at the facility.

This, after the precision technology option was used successfully to perform knee surgery on the first person earlier this year.

Known as Mako SmartRobotics, the surgical system is a tech-based solution developed for knee replacement surgeries. It combines three key components − 3D CT scan-based planning, AccuStop technology and insightful data analytics − into one platform.

Netcare says it decided to introduce the Mako robotic-arm-assisted surgery in the Western Cape following the demand seen at Netcare Linksfield in Gauteng, where the system has been used since 2019.

The hospital group notes Netcare Blaauwberg is the only facility in the Western Cape offering the high-tech surgery option to patients.

Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Mark van der Kaag performed the Western Cape hospital’s first procedure in March, after becoming accredited to perform total and partial knee, as well as hip replacements, using the Mako surgical system.

“Essentially, this robotic surgical system provides additional safeguards to ensure the surgeon only works within the dimensions required for optimal precision,” explains Van der Kaag. “I am fully in control of this highly-sophisticated tool at all times, as the robotic software and hardware elements only work as guided by the surgeon through the pre-defined three-dimensional surgical plan.”

Melanie van Heerden, the first patient who underwent the robotic-arm-assisted surgery at Netcare Blaauwberg, says she’s on the mend thanks to the surgery.

“I dreaded going to the shops before I had my partial knee replacement. I was in constant pain and it was stealing from my quality of life. There were so many everyday activities that became virtually impossible for me.

“I was excited when Dr Van der Kaag said the robotic-arm-assisted surgery was an option for me because I believe in using up-to-date technology. It is reassuring to have this option when you go for an operation like this.”

In theatre, Van der Kaag aligns the virtual 3D knee and surgical plan to the patient’s actual knee, which sets the boundaries the surgeon will work within, reveals the statement.

He validates the surgical plan and makes any necessary adjustments. The robotic arm system provides detailed visual, auditory and tactile feedback to assist the surgeon in removing the damaged section of bone, and accurately positioning and aligning the implanted prosthetic component.

“The more precise the fit of the implanted joint, the more comfortable and stable the knee is likely to be. Other potential benefits associated with this advanced surgical option include reduced post-operative pain and shorter recovery times, so it is an ideal option for people who wish to resume their daily lives as soon as possible,” states Van der Kaag.

“The ability to position the prosthetic knee more precisely often achieves a more natural feel to the knee, and allows patients to return to most of the activities they previously enjoyed.”

Jacques Du Plessis, MD of Netcare’s hospital division, commends Van der Kaag and his team, noting the use of the Mako surgical system keeps the province at the forefront of technology for patients in need of knee and hip replacement procedures.

“Developments in robotic-assisted surgery are ushering in a new paradigm in applying world-class technology to surgery, providing greater choice in terms of the options available for patients.”

Also in the Western Cape, the Groote Schuur Hospital announced earlier this month that it will perform robotic-assisted surgeries in the treatment of a wide range of conditions. It expects to perform a procedure of this nature on its first patient in February 2022.