Mako: Robotic Knee Replacements


PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Every year, 700,000 Americans get their worn-out knees replaced. Experts predict those numbers will continue to grow. By the year 2030, as many as 1.28 million Americans will get new knees every year. These days, improvements in parts, technology and surgery mean longer lasting knee replacements opening the way for younger patients to feel relief. Ivanhoe has more.

Fifty-three-year-old Lisa Rivardo oversees a busy dental practice. She’s back and forth from her office to the exam rooms 100 times a day.

“I’m up more than I’m down,” explained Lisa.

Years of working out and constant activity took a toll on her knees. Two years ago, the pain became unbearable. The right knee was bad, the left was worse.

“It felt like it wasn’t in its socket,” Lisa continued.

Lisa tried ice, pain relievers, cortisone injections, and gel therapy. Nothing worked. David P. Fowler, MD, an orthopedic specialist at UPMC, felt Lisa would be a good candidate for knee replacement using a system called Mako SmartRobotics. Doctors use a CT scan to build a 3D model of a patient’s knee, then personalize surgery based on a patient’s anatomy.

“When we open the knee, we digitize certain points on the patient’s knee that gets sent wirelessly to the computer,” shared Dr. Fowler.

With new materials and technology helping align the knees, Dr. Fowler said these replacements could last up to 30 years.

“Just like those tires being perfectly aligned. Your tires don’t wear out as quickly. We’re hopeful that that’s true with the knee replacements as well,” Dr. Fowler stated.

Dr. Fowler replaced both of Lisa’s knees with the Mako system. Now, a year later, she’s pain-free.

“I am very much looking forward to being able to walk my dog this year,” smiled Lisa.

Getting Pikachu off the couch and out the door with her.

At one time, knee replacements were reserved for patients 65 and older because the replacement parts would only last about ten to 15 years. Now, with parts lasting 20 to 30 years, many younger patients may be candidates for replacement.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Kirk Manson, Videographer.

REPORT #2849


BACKGROUND: A variety of illnesses and injuries can likely result in chronic joint pain, such as sports injuries, overuse, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, bursitis, gout, bone cancer and even depression. The most common causes of chronic joint pain are osteoarthritis, joint injuries, genetics or being overweight. Chronic joint pain affects more than 30 million U.S. adults, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 15 million people, or one in four adults, report experiencing severe joint pain related to arthritis. And, nearly half of adults with arthritis have persistent pain. Chronic joint pain develops over time and can become so intense that it hurts to walk, climb stairs, kneel or stoop. It causes the brain to misinterpret sensations from affected areas, so you constantly anticipate pain, which causes stress and anxiety possibly leading to mental illness.

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MANAGING CHRONIC PAIN: Pain is considered chronic when it lasts three to six months or longer. The pain may be constant, or it may come and go, making it hard to perform daily activities. However, there are ways to effectively manage chronic pain. Be sure to take your medications. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs recommended by your doctor can help control inflammation and pain. Another way is to manage your weight. Excess weight can cause more pressure on the weight-bearing joints and increase pain. Plus, adipose tissue, or fat, sends out chemical signals that increase inflammation. Another important way to help manage chronic pain is to stay active. Activities like walking, water aerobics, or yoga can help reduce joint pain and improve flexibility, balance, and strength. Cardiovascular exercise, like biking on a stationary bike, also helps keep your heart in shape. Finally, keeping a positive attitude can help significantly boost the ability to cope with pain, and finding ways to keep your mind off the pain by doing things you enjoy.


CUSTOMIZED KNEE REPLACEMENTS: Computer-assisted, custom knee replacements are a new option that can improve recovery and functionality for those who suffer from chronic knee pain. “Drawing on elements of computer-assisted surgery, we can create an exact duplicate of the patient’s knee for the replacement, instead of relying just on conventional measurements,” says Tomas Nemickas, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital who specializes in hip and knee replacements. “It enables a direct measurement of size and orientation to achieve a new level of precision.” With custom knee replacement, an MRI or CT scan and computer algorithm are used to create a three-dimension model that matches the orientation, size, and dimensions of the patient’s own knee. It is then uploaded to the surgeon’s computer, and they review and adjust it as needed before surgery. Custom knee replacements are precise to within several tenths of a millimeter, whereas the traditional approach has up to five millimeters of variability in the fit, and those few degrees difference in motion can matter.


* For More Information, Contact:

Rick Pietzak, UPMC PR

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