Mend and Bend

Partial knee replacement with a robot can lead to better results

MAKOplasty® partial knee resurfacing

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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ That’s part of the idea behind a new robot-assisted technique for knee replacement that makes it easier to replace only the bad part or parts of a patient’s knee.

The technique, MAKOplasty® partial knee resurfacing, uses a robot and offers a more precise operation than performing the same procedure without the robot arm, doctors say. The new technique also opens the operating room door for more patients to get partial knee replacements instead of total knee replacements.

If a patient has a partial knee replacement and the rest of his or her knee has problems, a surgeon can then do a total knee replacement later.

More than 600,000 total knee replacements are performed each year in the United States, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. As Baby Boomers age, the demand for total knee replacements could reach 3.5 million a year by 2030, according to a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Patients who suffer severe arthritis in one or two of the knee’s three components are candidates for partial knee replacements, says Dr. Boyd W. Haynes III of the Orthopaedic and Spine Center in Newport News.

With a partial knee replacement, patients recover and progress through rehab faster. They also have more natural movement afterward because a partial knee replacement preserves more of the body’s natural ligaments, especially the ACL, Haynes says.

“When you do a total knee replacement, you take out and replace the ligament structure in the knee,” Haynes says. “Total knee replacements try to mimic natural movement, and they do a good job but the knee never moves exactly the way it did before. The biggest advantage of doing a partial robotic knee replacement is converting someone who would have been a full knee replacement to a partial knee replacement with a better functioning, more natural knee.”

Earlier this spring, Haynes used the robot arm to replace the kneecap of a lady who had trouble getting out of her chair. One week later, she had the full range of motion in her knee, he says. “Before the robot, I would have had to take out the good parts of her knee as well as the bad parts,” he says.

But partial knee replacement surgeries can be more difficult because precise positioning is required to line up the new knee components with components of the body’s natural knee, says Dr. Anthony Carter of Hampton Roads Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Newport News.