At the cutting edge: could robot assisted surgery be for you?


Robot assisted surgery for hip and knee replacements reduces complications and improves outcomes, says consultant orthopaedic surgeon James Webb.

It is three years since James Webb undertook the first robot-assisted hip and knee replacements at Woodlands Hospital Darlington. This cutting-edge technology was a major investment at the hospital, and Woodlands is the only private hospital in the North East to benefit from this technology. Since 2019, Mr Webb has undertaken more than 300 robot-assisted hip, knee and partial knee replacements, and this technology has become a key part of his joint replacement practice.

The potential benefits of this system include a detailed pre-operative 3D CT scan of each patient. From this scan, the MAKO team are able to produce a very precise personalised plan of the anatomy to give a best fit of the size and orientation of the new joint replacement components, so each and every patient has a bespoke plan prior to surgery.

It is important to realise that the surgeon is still performing the surgery, and very much still in charge of the procedure,” says Mr Webb. “However, in order to reproduce the very precise pre-operative plan, the surgeon uses a robot arm to make a very precise cuts in the bone. This means that the new hip and knee implants can be inserted with millimetre precision to match each patient’s anatomy.

Although there are lots of alternatives, such as painkillers and exercise, that people should consider before opting for surgery, if they do decide on a hip or knee replacement then robot-assisted surgery is an available option with Mr Webb at Woodlands. Although a relatively new technique in the region, this system has been used extensively worldwide, with over 16 years of clinical experience. More than 600,000 MAKO robotassisted procedures have been performed across the globe, with over 280 published scientific articles assessing its potential benefits.

Studies have shown it to be safe and effective, demonstrating a quicker recovery and reduced post-operative pain levels compared to standard hip and knee replacement.

My own experience with robot-assisted surgery mirrors that of studies published in the medical literature which show promising ‘Woodlands is the only private hospital in the North East to benefit from this technology’ results and a high level of patient satisfaction,” says Mr Webb, a faculty member on the panel teaching other surgeons how to use this new robot assisted technique.

The Northern Echo:

Although no surgery is without risk, the robot-assisted technique has been shown to reduce risks of complications of hip replacement such as dislocation and leg length difference. Studies have also shown higher patient satisfaction rates after robot-assisted knee replacement compared with standard knee replacement. Partial knee replacement using the robot-assisted technique has been shown to result in reduced post-operative painkiller requirements and a reduced hospital stay. I feel that robot-assisted surgery will continue to increase in popularity going forward.

Woodlands Hospital, Darlington DL1 4P

07511 466676

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