Robots and joint replacement surgery.

Some people love the idea of robots being in charge of their surgery and some people are quite terrified by the idea.

I have been following robotic technology in arthroplasty for 12 years, visiting centres around the world that use the technology and monitoring the published results. It’s a fascinating area of development and something that is here to stay.

I can tell you, two of the big reasons robots are being pushed and promoted are that there is a natural assumption among patients that new technology is better, meaning that hospitals which can offer them may attract more patients; and of course companies who make robots stand to make money. That said, I am a big supporter of development in all aspects of arthroplasty surgery. Surprisingly, until recently, the clinical benefits of using robots were actually quite difficult to prove. However, there is now quite good data to show improved precision with uni-compartmental knee replacements using haptic robotic technology.  In-time, robots will become cheaper and simpler to use and they will find their place.

There are some excellent orthopaedic centres in the world which use robotic technologies, and excellent centres which do not use them. In my view, a robot should not be the primary consideration when thinking about who will do your hip or knee replacement. Instead, see a surgeon who routinely does hundreds of hip or knee replacement surgeries each year. When you visit an experienced surgeon who does this surgery week-in, week-out, you can be pretty sure they will have seen everything and will be ready for anything.

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