Computer Surgery

When it comes to hip or knee replacement surgery, accuracy in cutting the bone and fitting the implant is key to getting a good result. A handful of centers around the U.S. are hoping to insure precision with the help of a computer.

A computer system called Orthpilot determines the length of the bone, its shape and it can tell you how much you need to cut and what direction you need to cut.

Usually in total knee replacement surgery, doctors use X-Rays to determine where to cut the bone and fit the implant. But this technique is subject to error. Doctors say there are magnification and penetration issues when it comes to X-Rays. So the information available to surgeons for pre-operative use is susceptible to a certain amount of error that then gets built in to the plan.

The computer is connected to an infrared camera with transmitters attached to the surgical instruments and to the patient. Doctors say it will get closer to getting a better result. It should also make the implant last longer.

The computer technology also lets doctors make smaller incisions. Some doctors believe with 10 years, computer assisted technology will be used in almost all orthopedic surgeries. Currently, it's being used at Northwestern University in Chicago.