Technology helps to make our lives easier in all kinds of ways, so why not make it easier to get a total joint replacement too? Combining a surgeon's expertise with robotic technology creates a surgical experience that can be immensely beneficial to patients.

What is robotic knee replacement surgery?

Robotic knee replacement surgery uses robotic technology to assist in a knee replacement. However, it's more accurate to call this procedure "robot assisted."

During knee replacement, and after exposing the joint, the cartilage surface is shaved and the bone ends are prepared for placement of the implant. This bone-preparation process is critical in determining the final position of the implant. In a traditional total knee replacement surgery, the surgeon uses hand-held tools to determine where to perform these cuts.

During a robot-assisted knee replacement surgery, data regarding the shape of the knee and the tension of the patient's ligaments is provided to the robotic program through real-time assessment, and the surgeon plans implant positioning accordingly to yield a well-balanced knee. The robot then shows the surgeon where to perform the cuts to better execute the desired plan, and allows for more accuracy and personalization of implant placement.

Is robotic knee replacement surgery better?

The main benefit of robotic knee replacement surgery is the higher accuracy and ability to precisely plan the implant positioning to best fit the patient's anatomy. This allows for a highly personalized surgical experience and less pain during the recovery period. The major advantage with robotic knee replacement is in the complex cases, where the knee or the leg has a substantial deformity.

What is the downside to robotic knee replacement?

Every surgery comes with some risks and should be thoroughly discussed with your doctor or surgeon. However, the main disadvantages of robot assisted knee surgery are a slightly longer surgery time (though both robot-assisted and traditional knee replacement surgery only take one to two hours, depending on the case) and a possibility for an additional, very small incision for pin placement.

What is the recovery time for robotic knee replacement?

Each patient is different and recovery time may vary, however, current literature shows a slightly faster recovery time in addition to less pain immediately after surgery. Most patients are able to walk with some assistance on the day of their surgery, and resume regular activities two to three months after surgery.

Much of the recovery time depends on the level of activity and preparedness prior to surgery. The more active a patient is and the stronger their muscles are, the faster the recovery. After surgery, patients should work on regaining their range of motion first, and then re-strengthening the muscles. A healthy balance in activity levels is always advised, as we want to avoid "overprotecting" the knee, which might lead to stiffness and weakness, while avoiding pushing beyond the patient's limits.

How does a patient prepare for joint replacement surgery?

Despite the many advancements made in surgical procedures, a surgery remains a major event that requires substantial preparation. Physical fitness is one part of the surgery preparedness equation—remaining active and performing exercises to strengthen the muscles around the knee joint before surgery helps with recovery time after the procedure. Surgeons also want to ensure that their patients are functionally, nutritionally, and psychologically ready for the surgery. This includes:

  • remaining active and perhaps enrolling in a "prehab" program
  • eating a healthy and well-balanced diet
  • avoiding any unhealthy habits, such as smoking, as these could increase the risk of complications after surgery

Your surgeon will have a specific protocol and will work with a team of providers, including physical therapists, primary care providers, medical specialists, nutritionists, case managers, and other care providers to design a personalized plan before and after surgery.

How do I know when it is time for a knee replacement?

In arthritic cases where there is substantial damage to the cartilage in the joint, patients will generally complain of pain and limited function. The limited function could be in the form of instability, knee giving out, inability to straighten and bend the knee, or other forms. In such cases, when the pain and functional limitations start to interfere with the patient's life, and when other measures fail in improving these symptoms, then it is time to consider a knee replacement.

If a knee is causing limitations in the face of living an active lifestyle—walking, hiking, jogging, running, or any other form of activity—then it's time to talk to your doctor about whether it is time for knee replacement surgery.

If you find that it is time to consider a total knee replacement, call Newport Hospital's Total Joint Replacement center at 401-845-4330 and ask if robot assisted knee replacement surgery is right for you.

Mouhanad El Othmani, MD

Mouhanad El Othmani, MD

Dr. Mouhanad El Othmani is an orthopedic surgeon with the Lifespan Orthopedics Institute at Newport Hospital. He specializes in conditions of the hip and knee joints with a special interest in anterior hip and robotic knee replacement surgeries.