Does a robot perform the surgery?

That's one of the questions about robotic surgery most frequently asked by Mayo patients.

The short answer is no. However, robot-assisted joint replacement is an advanced technological tool for orthopedic surgeons in Mayo Clinic Health System to help produce the best possible outcomes for our patients, including quicker recovery, less pain, more stability and better range of motion.

Here are answers to other questions patients frequently ask about robotic surgery:

What is robotic surgery, and how does it work?

Robotic-arm-assisted orthopedic surgery is used for partial and total knee replacements, as well as total hip replacements.

This advanced surgical tool provides many advantages, including:

• Consistent, precise alignment of the prosthesis

• Less bone loss

• Reduced soft tissue injury

• Less pain

• Enhanced stability

• Improved mobility

• Quicker recovery

• Improved safety

Surgeons can align the implant and match it more precisely to the patient's anatomy. One of the most important aspects of joint replacement surgery is placing the individual components of the artificial joint in the best possible alignment, as well as achieving the best soft tissue balance around the joint for improved motion and stability.

The robotic arm uses a computerized 3D reconstructed image of the patient's hip or knee and matches this image to the actual joint at the time of surgery. The robot then guides the surgeon's use of tools during the surgery to precisely place each component.

Once surgery is underway, the robotic arm controls the direction of the bone cuts to an accuracy of a half-millimeter and protects tissue around the cuts, according to the plan on the computer screen. The goal is to give patients a joint that feels as close to their natural knee or hip as possible.

This tactile, visual and auditory feedback from the robot helps the surgeon achieve the desired precision alignment while minimizing excess bone loss. This can enhance stability, mobility and outcomes, and lead to quicker recovery and hopefully longer life of the joint replacement.

The robot also adds safety for patients. Using the 3D model, the robot outlines a safe zone around the joint that is being replaced. This prevents the use of the surgeon's implements outside of the safe zone, which protects vital structures such as ligaments, blood vessels and nerves.

Does a robot do the surgery?

No, the surgeon still performs the surgery with assistance from a computer-controlled robotic arm.

Who qualifies for robotic surgery?

Almost every patient who is a candidate for total or partial joint replacement will qualify for robotic surgery. Your surgeon can discuss these rare exceptions with you.

Will I have to stay in the hospital?

There's an increasing trend for outpatient total joint surgery. About 35% of patients can go home the same day. Discuss this option with your surgeon to determine if you're a candidate.

What is the role of the patient?

As with traditional joint replacement, the patient and surgeon partner to achieve surgery goals and ensure overall satisfaction with the results. For the patient, this may include physical therapy before surgery. After surgery, the patient is still responsible for working to reduce swelling, rebuild strength and regain range of motion.

Patients who are eligible for this innovative surgery should discuss options with their orthopedic surgeon.

Michael Eckstrom, M.D., Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin, Minnesota; and Ryan Foley, M.D., Orthopedic Surgery and Sports Medicine, Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, Minnesota.

Recommended for you

Load comments