A few decades ago, the idea of performing surgeries with robots was little more than that: an idea. Fast forward to today, and robotic-assisted surgeries have become so commonplace that they’re sometimes the preferred method.
MAKOplasty (Mako), for example, is a type of robotic surgery used in orthopedic procedures such as knee or hip replacements. The robotic arm used in Mako utilizes 3D CT scans to place implants. This leads to smaller incisions than traditional joint-replacement surgery.
“The goal is to fix the problem with the least amount of surgery,” said John J. Kim, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Novant Health UVA Health System. “Traditional surgery techniques often take longer and have higher likelihood of complications. Mako allows us to precisely perform total knee replacements in about one and half hours. It’s a great option for active individuals who are experiencing chronic pain from years of use.”
Meet Charles LeBleu
One such individual is Charles LeBleu. The 59-year-old former commercial electrician suffered a tear to his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his late-twenties. While the ACL tear was successfully repaired with surgery, Charles was an avid athlete and years of playing sports eventually took their toll on his knee.
“My orthopedic surgeon warned me that with my active lifestyle, I’d likely need a knee replacement by age 60,” said LeBleu. “When I began experiencing a lot of pain as I walked, I knew it was time to see a specialist.”
Kim X-rayed LeBleu’s knee and determined that the deterioration of cartilage and torn tissue warranted a total knee replacement.
“Dr. Kim walked me through the options for both robotic and non-robotic surgeries, and I did a lot of my own research,” said LeBleu. “Technology has come a long way and I felt comfortable with Dr. Kim’s approach, so I decided, why not go the Mako route?”
LeBleu decided to have the surgery done at Novant Health UVA Health System Prince William Medical Center, which has an infection rate well below the national average for joint-replacement surgery.
How Mako is Done
We’re not yet at the point of performing robotic surgeries without input from surgeons, but surgeries like Mako allow the surgeon to use the robotic arm to make precise cuts to the joint with less dissection of soft tissues. This leads to less pain and improved range of motion in a replaced knee or hip.
“The robotic arm allows a heightened degree of accuracy,” said Kim. “This precision, and the minimally invasive nature of the surgery, can pose significant benefits to patients as they recover.”
Those benefits include faster return to normal daily activities, shorter hospital stays, less pain and scarring and lower risk of infection, blood loss and transfusions..
Back to Normal
Recovery times and recommendations vary by individual, but for LeBleu, the return to normal life took little more than a few days after his Mako procedure in December 2019.
“There was a noticeable difference in my pain level almost immediately. Within three days I was walking without a cane, and I was able to do squats in Dr. Kim’s office at my two-week post-op appointment,” said LeBleu. “Before surgery, I worried every time I stepped off a curb or mounted my bicycle. Now, I’ve actually had to get used to not worrying quite so much,” he added.
Although LeBleu was fortunate to be back to activity soon after surgery, he was careful not to rush the timeline of his recovery.
“A critical part of recovery from any surgery is having patience and following instructions from doctors, nurses and physical therapists,” said Kim. “With joint replacements in particular, we stress the importance of regaining a full range of motion before starting to rebuild muscle. If a patient rushes through that process, they run the risk of injury.”
Mako offers an innovative, state-of-the-art and more precise alternative to traditional joint replacements. Prince William Medical Center is the first hospital in Virginia to receive a gold seal of approval for hip and knee replacements from The Joint Commission, and now proudly offers Mako as an option for local knee and hip replacement candidates. Novant Health UVA Health System recently began offering Mako at Haymarket Medical Center, as well.
The Expert: John J. Kim, MD
His Expertise: Orthopedic Surgeon
John J. Kim, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon with Novant Health UVA Health System. For more information about the doctors and services offered at Novant Health UVA Health System, visit novanthealthuva.org