Robotic Arm to Transform Joint Replacement Surgery

By Sarah Gooding
Friday, April 21, 2017

The Kansas Spine & Specialty Hospital in Wichita is now the exclusive Kansas provider of Mako™ Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery, which will enable surgeons to achieve a higher level of precision for implant design and replacement.

Damion Walker, DO, of Kansas Joint & Spine Specialists, guides Callie Gowing, a senior at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School, through the basics of using the Kansas Spine & Specialty Hospital’s new Mako Robotic-Arm Assisted Surgery unit during a recent community-education event.

At a recent community-education event hosted by the hospital, Damion Walker, DO, compared the precision now available with robotic-arm-assisted surgery to the difference between balancing tires robotically versus by hand.

“How did we balance tires? Now we put them on a machine and it spins it really fast, and now a robot or a computer tells us exactly where to put the weight so we get beautifully balanced tires that last a long time,” Dr. Walker says. “But before that, a guy sat there and spun a tire and thought, ‘That needs a weight on it,’ and spun it until he got it good.”

Similarly, orthopedic surgeons operate with great precision when doing knee and hip replacements. But when the Kansas Spine & Specialty Hospital brought in the Mako Robotic-Arm unit, Dr. Walker was the first to embrace the opportunity to learn.

“In orthopedic surgery, we have lots of manual jigs and alignment guides, so for years we’ve been that guy spinning the tire, and our experience makes us pretty good at it,” he says. “We’ve done thousands of surgeries and been able to get things where people have excellent results.”

“Now we have a new technology. We have robotics with GPS navigation technology in the operating room, to where we can optimize our alignments. We can put these parts in people’s knees and hips in a fashion that we never could before.”

Dr. Walker says osteoarthritis is the most common cause of disability and limits the activities of 21 million Americans, many of whom will one day opt for a partial or full replacement of a worn-out joint.

“Joint replacement is a daunting decision for our patients, and the robotic-arm-assisted system addresses two of the common concerns: recovery time and long-term success,” says Kansas Spine & Specialty Hospital CEO Thomas M. Schmitt.

The technology that is part of the Mako system helps make this possible.

“The robot allows us to get a personalized, 3-D model before we ever see the patient in the OR,” Dr. Walker says. “We do a 3-D CT scan, and we can look at the knee in three dimensions and we can perform the surgery on the computer before we ever actually see the patient.”

He says this allows physicians to size the components and create a personalized plan for each patient, which are things physicians have never been able to do before.

“With the use of the robot, we’ve really revolutionized the way we can do this,” Dr. Walker says.

For more information about the Kansas Spine & Specialty Hospital, please visit