Robot helps orthopedic surgeons at Copley Hospital

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MORRISVILLE, Vt. (WCAX) It's been about two years in the making, but Copley Hospital is finally introducing its newest piece of technology: a robot that assists with knee replacement surgery.

The robot is part of the NAVIO Surgical System. Doctors say it provides another way for surgeons to achieve technical accuracy and precision for partial and total knee replacement procedures.

Two of the Mansfield Orthopedic fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons, Dr. Brian Aros and Dr. Nicholas Antell, are currently training with the robot.

On Monday they allowed WCAX News into the operating room for an exclusive femur bone removal demonstration and explained how the technology works.

"It allows us to collect data in real time at the time of the surgery once the patient is on the table and give us basically a 3D rendering of what their bone anatomy is," Antell said.

He says the robot is inside a handheld device. It has sensors on it that are in sync with sensors on the thigh, femur and tibia bones, detecting exactly where the patient's knee is. As they perform bone resections, the robot lets them know if they cut too much or not enough bone.

The technology is also used to prepare bone, size and position knee implants.

"This system would allow us to plan what we would do early on as to what type of procedure we were doing, whether it's a partial or total, and then what implant we choose to use," said Aros.

Aros says they chose the NAVIO system because of its variety and flexibility.

“One of the nice things with this system is within their array of implants, it doesn’t commit us to one implant. So it allows us as surgeons to choose within whatever we would feel best is the implant of choice for the patient,” he said. “One of the unique things specifically about this system is during surgery, it’s really giving us feedback as to how the knee would potentially move if the implant was sized or placed in that position. And then afterward, when we do a trial and we put the final implant in, it allows us to gather more information so we can make the knee as close to perfect as possible hoping that will eventually influence the outcome in a positive way for patients.”

Both doctors reiterated that the robot does not work alone and they are still in control of the operation.

“We are actually doing the procedure with the handheld instruments. We are over the patient, we are doing the procedure and the computer screen -- that’s there helping us guide our bone resections but we’re actually doing the hands-on stuff ourselves,” said Antell. “As surgeons and medical providers, you need to be open to advances in technology. Sometimes change is hard but there’s certainly benefits to incorporating advanced technologies into your practice. I think there’s a lot of things in orthopedics that a robot’s not going to be able to do for us over time. You definitely need the surgeon in the room doing the procedure but this is just added technology that helps us improve our accuracy and our precision.”

Antell and Aros added that they aren't sure when they'll officially start using the robot on patients, but it could be as early as this fall on a case-by-case basis.