Here’s how robots assist doctors in orthopedic surgery and why they’re beneficial

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Many have probably heard of robotic orthopedic surgery, but what exactly is it?

Don’t worry, robots don’t put on a show in the operating room. Surgeons control and execute the surgical plan while robots assist with precision.

Over the past decade, robots have become important assistants in orthopedic operating rooms, and we will continue to see many more advances in this area.

In fact, studies have shown that there are better outcomes and benefits with robot-assisted surgeries.

Advantages of robot-assisted surgery

Using joysticks and foot controls, the surgeon can visualize the procedure on a 3D monitor.

After creating a CT scan of a patient’s knee, for example, robots can produce a 3D model that shows where the total knee should be placed. If a surgeon is about to saw the bone a millimeter or more out of the intended limit, the robot will correct the positioning.

Studies also show that these more precise procedures lead to fewer errors and less blood loss. Robotic surgery also leads to shorter hospital stays and faster recovery in the first weeks after surgery.

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Robot-assisted surgeries are also slightly less likely to cause post-operative complications than laparoscopies. About 8% of robotic operations resulted in complications, compared to 9% of conventional laparoscopies.

What do robots do in the operating room?

The FDA-approved orthopedic surgeries most commonly assisted by robots are:

  • Total knee replacement.

  • Total hip replacement.

  • Total shoulder replacement.

  • Total ankle prosthesis.

The robots also perform various tasks in the operating room, supervised by the surgeon. Some of these tasks include:

  • Modeling of the joint.

  • Preoperative planning.

  • Precise soft tissue manipulation.

  • Precise osteotomy, or cutting and reshaping of bone.

The most important part of orthopedic replacement surgeries is the precision of the osteotomy, and robots can perform these tasks with millimeter precision.

Using 3D technology, robots can ensure that a patient’s joint is balanced and the range of motion perfectly matches their body.

This “extra pair of hands” can also help surgeons preserve their own hands and extend their careers.

Training in surgical robotics

Physicians complete a certain number of hours during their residency and fellowship to be qualified to use robotics in the orthopedic operating room. They must also complete certification, an online course, and lab work for each type of replacement.

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Even though robotic surgery is performed by surgeons — not robots — robotic technology can help surgeons be as precise as possible with their patients and get them to the best possible outcome.

Learn more about orthopedic experts and sports medicine specialists at Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute.

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