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Netcare powers up robotically-assisted surgeries

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Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Wian van der Merwe, performing knee replacement surgery with the Mako SmartRobotics system, assisted by registered nurse Madri van der Sandt and enrolled nurse Dineo Mokone.
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Wian van der Merwe, performing knee replacement surgery with the Mako SmartRobotics system, assisted by registered nurse Madri van der Sandt and enrolled nurse Dineo Mokone.

Private hospital group Netcare will soon have four orthopaedic surgeons performing high-tech, robotic-assisted knee and hip replacement surgeries at its Pretoria east hospital.

So says Pieter Louw, GM of Netcare Pretoria East Hospital, noting this is in line with expanding the options in hip and knee replacements for patients from northern Gauteng and surrounding provinces.

Netcare Pretoria East Hospital currently has two fully-accredited orthopaedic surgeons performing knee and hip replacements using the Mako robotic surgery system.

Doctors Wian van der Merwe and Tiaan Stoffberg completed comprehensive training in Istanbul, Turkey, with the advanced SmartRobotics surgical system.

“We congratulate orthopaedic surgeons Dr Wian van der Merwe and Dr Tiaan Stoffberg on achieving full accreditation last year in the use of this advanced technology, for the benefit of those in need of such surgery,” says Louw.

“By the end of June, a further two orthopaedic surgeons practising at our hospital will complete the final leg of their accreditation in the use of the robotic-assisted system. “

The Mako SmartRobotics 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 data analytics − into one platform for more predictable and personalised orthopaedic procedures.

The private hospital network introduced the robotic-arm-assisted surgery system at Netcare Linksfield in Gauteng in 2019 and Western Cape’s Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital last year.

Also in the Western Cape, the Groote Schuur Hospital plans to perform robotic-assisted surgeries in the treatment of a wide range of conditions.

In 2016, the Mako robot performed Africa’s first orthopaedic robotic surgery at Busamed Modderfontein Private Hospital in Johannesburg.

According to Van der Merwe, the Mako robotic system is designed to further improve surgical precision. The technology assists the surgeon in the planning of the procedure beforehand, and provides additional checks in real-time at each stage during the operation.

“Based on a CT scan of the patient’s knee, the system’s sophisticated software develops a three-dimensional digital map of the knee, and calculates the optimal implant size, placement and alignment of the prosthetic knee joint to fit the patient’s specific anatomy. This data is then translated into a preoperative surgical plan,” he explains.

“This offers an extra level of precision, adding to the surgeon’s own technique and experience. On the day of the procedure, the digital 3D map of the knee is carefully aligned to the patient’s actual knee in theatre, and the surgical plan is validated.

“The dimensions needed for the procedure are set, and at these boundaries cutting automatically stops, serving as an additional safeguard to preserve the surrounding soft tissues and healthy bone. The resections achieved are extremely accurate to the surgical plan, being within a fraction of a millimetre.”

Furthermore, as the surgeon guides the robotic arm system, it provides detailed visual, auditory and tactile feedback, he states. “The robotic system cannot do anything without the surgeon. Rather, it helps keep the surgeon within the optimal dimensions to match the patient’s individual anatomy through the defined surgical plan.”

Van der Merwe points out that the stability of the knee joint, as well as the range of motion and comfort a person enjoys after a knee or hip replacement can be greatly influenced by the accuracy of the fit of the prosthetic joint for the specific patient.

“In addition, where there is minimal interference with the surrounding soft tissues, the post-operative recovery can often be quicker. This technological advance is a further tool we can use to help deliver advantages such as these for our patients.”

Louw concludes: “We are pleased that the introduction of this Mako robotic system now offers this world-class option to more patients in need of knee or hip replacement surgery.”

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