Successful Joint Replacement: It’s Location, Location, Location!

If you’ve ever done any construction work, you know that position is everything.  “Plumb, level and square” are a builder’s favorite words.  Position is just as important with joint replacements.  That’s why Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery is so revolutionary.

“Joint replacement has traditionally been based on feel,” says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Dirk Bakker.  “When I replace a knee, for example, I’m feeling for bony landmarks and moving the joint as much as I can to see if I have it in the right place.”  And while a good surgeon can get an excellent result much of the time, there’s still room for error.

“Traditional joint replacement has an element of guesswork in it,” continues Dr. Bakker.  “The saw can bend or vibrate when we’re cutting the bone.  I certainly can’t see and test every position.  So while we plan as well as we can, there are some things we can’t control.”

That’s where Mako Technology enters the picture. Robotic-arm assisted surgery eliminates the guesswork of joint placement.  “We can now put the joint in the perfect position,” says Dr. Bakker.  “The robotic technology allows us to make small changes and see them in 3D during the procedure.  We can stress the joint, move it, and ensure that it’s in just the right place for maximum functionality.  We also get a perfect cut.  Using the Mako System, we have a degree of precision that’s just not possible any other way.”

Precision is important.  Just as with houses, there’s a lot riding on the joint.  If it’s not quite in the right place, or the ligaments are not exactly balanced, the patient can still experience some degree of discomfort.  The joint can also wear out faster, or even come loose.  “Approximately 20 percent of traditional joint replacement patients say that their new knee is not perfect,” admits Dr. Bakker.  “It’s better, but not perfect.  Mako should get us much closer to 100 percent success.”

Robotic-arm assisted surgery provides additional side benefits to the patient.  The first is a faster recovery time.  Traditional joint replacement involves a 2-3 night hospital stay.  A Mako Total Knee application requires a single night stay.  There’s also less blood loss, less tissue displacement, fewer pain pills and faster rehab.  Although there are no studies to prove it, patients who have had one traditional joint replacement and then one Mako Total Knee say that it’s a lot less painful and they recover much faster.

Now that North Ottawa Community Health System has Mako Technology in-house, the second benefit is how many more people can be served in this way.  Medicare and Medicaid require that a joint replacement be done at a hospital.  “We have been using Mako Technology at the Orthopedic Associates of Muskegon surgical center,” says Dr. Bakker.  “However, that meant we could not provide the best possible solution for our Medicare patients, because the robotic technology was not covered for them.  Having the Mako System at the hospital in Grand Haven is a game changer.”

Mako is a significant investment for surgeons as well as for the hospital.  Technology and training are essential.  OAM is the only surgical group in West Michigan to offer all three hip and knee procedures using the Mako System.  “We have people who travel from all over northern and western Michigan because they want the benefits of robotic-arm assisted surgery,” notes Dr. Bakker.  “Fortunately, all three of our Grand Haven-based orthopedic surgeons are highly trained with Mako.  We anticipate doing substantially more of these procedures now that the hospital has the robotic technology.”

If you would like to learn more about Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery, we invite you to attend one of our free seminars,  or ask your physician for a referral.

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