High-Tech Care

Advances in Medical Technology are Greatly Improving Patient Outcomes

Continental inflight magazine—January 24, 2011

Since the 1960s, mechanical guides have helped surgeons align knee and hip implants accurately 70 to 80 percent of the time. And the other 20 to 30 percent? "If your car wheels aren't aligned properly, your wheels will wear out sooner," says Dr. David Mayman, orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York. "It's the same with your hip or knee."

Orthopedic surgeons have seen an increase in the number of younger patients in need of hip or knee replacements. While the recent introduction of more durable implant materials should carry these patients through decades of activity to come, the metal also requires much more precise alignment.

At HSS, Mayman uses computer-aided navigation on hip and knee alignments. A camera attached to the patient's body creates a 3-D image, which guides surgeons in determining the exact place to make cuts. Mayman says he's seeing a 95 percent success rate with alignments.

And then there's Mako. "Mako is a robotic arm that holds a burr [a cutting tool]," Mayman notes. "The burr is directed by the surgeon, using the computer-generated guides, but Mako stops me from painting outside the line."

The best part? Mayman created a portable computer navigation unit, which he calls the Orthalign, that is helping doctors all over the country stay within the lines.

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