GPS for knee surgery

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
September 4, 2008 5:48:26 AM PDT
You might rely on a GPS to get you where you need to go. Now, surgeons are relying on similar technology in the operating room.Knee replacement is the most common kind of joint replacement surgery, with about 300,000 performed in the U.S. every year. Now, the same kind of navigation technology that helps you find where you're going in your car could help surgeons do knee replacements with better accuracy.

In Baton Rouge, Louisian, just a few months ago, Dolores Sams couldn't walk without a cane. And stairs?

"Forget it," she said. "I wasn't doing stairs at all. If there were three steps to go up, then I didn't go there."

Dr. Robert Moukarzel told Dolores she was a good candidate for a new kind of knee replacement surgery. It utilizes a computerized navigational system that's similar to GPS.

"Like the navigation in your car, it directs you to the easiest way and the straight way to get to your destination," Dr. Moukarzel said.

In surgery, infrared camera images from inside the knee feed into a computer. Then, a tracking system provides a surgical roadmap and directs the placement of the artificial knee.

"The computer gives us information back about how to cut the bones to get better alignment and a more precise alignment," Dr. Moukarzel said.

This approach allows for a smaller incision and in his practice, Dr. Moukarzel says he's seeing less blood loss, fewer complications and improved accuracy that may help the artificial knee last longer.

Four months after surgery, Dolores can move her new knee comfortably.

"Stairs aren't off limits anymore, and the pain is gone," she said. "Well, I have a life. I can go to the mall. I can buy groceries. I can visit friends and I can go up and down steps."

She may be 75, but with her mobility back, Dolores is definitely going places.


STORY BY: Medical reporter Dr. Jay Adlersberg


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