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South African doctors celebrate ground-breaking knee surgery

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South African doctors are celebrating a pioneering surgery technique newly-introduced in the country to heal knees using a state-of-the-art robotic system.

The surgery, said to be the first of its kind in Africa, involves a total knee replacement operation carried out on a patient using the state-of-the-art Mako robotic arm assisted surgery system, said Chris McCready of the Netcare Linksfield Hospital in Johannesburg on Wednesday, 9 October 2019.

“There is no national register for local total knee replacements currently but with an estimated 8 000 to 10 000 total knee replacements taking place in South Africa each year, this technology could signal a new era in personalised joint replacement,” McCready said.

However, it was noted that the technologically advanced system for total knee replacement is already well established in Europe, the United States and Britain.

Last year the system, which could also be used for hip and partial knee replacements, was used in over 250 000 procedures internationally, according to the doctor, who is the hospital’s orthopaedic surgeon and performed the ground-breaking operation.

McCready explained that prior to surgery, the system draws data from a computed tomography (CT) scan of the patient’s knee. This is done in order to develop a three-dimensional pre-operative plan that is unique to each individual – which is one of the major advantages of the system.

“This technology determines the dimensions for the surgical cuts to the bone surfaces, so that the best sized implanted joint components, can be selected for each patient and the placement and alignment of the implanted components can be planned in advance,” he said.

During the operation, the robotic arm system provided detailed visual, auditory and tactile feedback to the surgeon.

This helped to enhance surgical precision in positioning and aligning the knee implants, the surgeon added.

The system, which is controlled by the surgeon at all times, provides an additional safeguard for the patient, he said, adding that it ensures that only the specific areas identified in the personalised pre-surgical plan could be operated on, and thus prevent damage to critical structures within the knee.



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