SA carries out Africa’s first robotic knee replacement op

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Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Chris McCready recently performed a total knee replacement operation using the Mako robotic-assisted surgery system.
Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Chris McCready recently performed a total knee replacement operation using the Mako robotic-assisted surgery system.

Netcare Linksfield Hospital in Johannesburg is the first in Africa to carry out a total knee replacement operation using a Mako robotic arm-assisted surgery system.

Total knee replacement is a surgical procedure in which a diseased or damaged join is replaced with an artificial joint called an implant.

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

“There is no national register for local total knee replacements currently, but with an estimated 8 000 to 10 000 total knee replacements taking place in South Africa each year, this technology could signal a new era in personalised joint replacement,” says orthopaedic surgeon Dr Chris McCready, who practices at Netcare Linksfield Hospital and performed this African surgical first.

According to McCready, the technologically-advanced system for total knee replacement is already well established in Europe, the US and the UK.

The system, which can also be used for hip and partial knee replacements, was used in over 250 000 procedures internationally last year.

He says one of the major advantages of the robotic-assisted surgical system is that prior to the surgery, it draws data from a computed tomography scan of the patient’s knee to develop a three-dimensional pre-operative plan that is unique to each individual.

“This technology determines the dimensions for the surgical cuts to the bone surfaces, so that the best sized implanted joint components can be selected for each patient, and the placement and alignment of the implanted components can be planned in advance.

“During the operation, the robotic arm system provides detailed visual, auditory and tactile feedback to the surgeon, which helps to enhance surgical precision in positioning and aligning the knee implants,” explains McCready.

He notes the robotic arm system, which is controlled by the surgeon at all times, provides an additional safeguard for the patient because it ensures only the specific areas identified in the personalised pre-surgical plan can be operated on, preventing damage to critical structures within the knee.

“Benefits for patients that have been noted in outcomes recorded internationally for this advanced surgical option include the achievement of a better balanced and more natural feeling implanted knee, less post-operative pain and quicker recovery time,” says McCready, adding it would take time to accumulate comparable local data.

Dr McCready (right) explains that the robotic-assisted surgical system enhances surgical precision as it draws data from a CT scan of the patient’s knee.
Dr McCready (right) explains that the robotic-assisted surgical system enhances surgical precision as it draws data from a CT scan of the patient’s knee.

Jacques du Plessis, MD of Netcare’s hospital division, says the introduction of the robotic-assisted surgical system at Netcare Linksfield Hospital is well aligned to Netcare’s commitment to deliver personalised health and care to each individual patient.

“International studies indicate this intervention reduces the length of hospital stays and recovery times. By making advanced medical technology such as this available in South Africa, we look forward to realising similar benefits for our patients,” he says.

“This development has the potential to significantly enhance patient outcomes, and in appropriate cases, provides greater choice in terms of the surgical options available for individuals requiring total knee replacements.”

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