A team of biomedical engineers have developed a robotic arm that provides a faster and more efficient way to repair arthritic knees, leading to less pain and faster recovery. The robotic arm is part of a precise resurfacing system, which is used before a partial or entire knee is replaced. To do this, a three-dimensional image of the knee is generated, providing a live-action view of the knee, which surgeons use to determine how much bone to remove from the tibia and femur and where to place the implants.
A stereo camera system constantly updates surgeons on the location of the diseased portion of the knee to help them keep the healthy parts untouched. If the surgeon gets too close to the "no-go zone," audio and visual alarms sound. Also, the robotic arm gives artificial resistance on the edge of these zones so the surgeons feel like they have hit a wall. After the resurfacing is done, the implant is performed. A few days after the surgery, many patients walk naturally and are back to work, according to the researchers. The average hospital stay after conventional knee surgery is usually three to five days, with a full recovery within six weeks.
The biomedical research group developed the robotic arm for MAKO Surgical Corp. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and surgeons have conducted the surgery on close to 4,000 patients. The company expanded the technology outside the United States this summer for the first time, with clinical trials conducted in Scotland.