Surgeon’s in the North East are among the first in the country to use robotics technology to perform knee replacements.

Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is nationally recognised for cutting edge robotic surgery, offering it in seven different clinical specialities.

The latest clinical area to embrace the technology is orthopaedics at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital. Knee replacement surgery involves a MAKO robotic arm, designed to enable the highest accuracy during surgery.

Prior to surgery, patients undergo a CT scan to capture clear images of the bone and joints.

The scan is then used to create a 3D model of the knee to plan the positioning of the implant and ensure the surgeon can accurately cut the bones during surgery using the robot.

Information from the scan is then used to ensure the bones are cut at the correct angle and depth, and the implant is inserted at the correct position.

Grandmother-of-two Margaret Smith was the first patient in the North East to have a knee replacement using the robotic arm.

The 71-year-old from Chapel Park in Newcastle has arthritis, which affects most of her joints.

“We watched a video which explained all about how the robotic system worked, and how it helps to make the surgery so precise. I felt very happy and confident to have my operation,” she said.

Within days of her operation Margaret was able to bend her knee and walk confidently with little support.

“When I went to visit my friends not long after my operation, they couldn’t believe that I was up and about without using any walking sticks. One even asked me where my wheelchair was,” she added.

“I’m so pleased to have had the operation and would recommend it to anyone who needs a knee replacement.”

Currently, between 10-20% of patients who undergo knee surgery are disappointed with the outcome and often need revision surgery.

Professor David Deehan and Mr David Weir, have carried out more than 2,000 of these operations using the high performing Triathlon implant, using conventional techniques. They believe poor outcomes are down to poorly positioned implants.

Professor Deehan, consultant orthopaedic surgeon specialising in revision and complex knee disorders at the Freeman Hospital explains: “Proper implant position and balance of the soft tissues during surgery are extremely important factors that can affect the success and longevity of a total knee replacement. Dissatisfaction with the return of function after knee replacement remains a challenge.

“Part of the solution to such is tailoring implant position in the joint to match the patient’s soft tissues. Robotic assisted surgery offers the promise of improving the surgeons’ ability to achieve this.”

Mr Weir added: “It’s really important to emphasise that the robotic arm does not perform the surgery – it is guided by the surgeon.

“We use exactly the same knee replacement implants, which we attach to the bone surface in exactly the same way as during a standard knee replacement procedure.

“The difference is that by using the robotic arm, we know we can position the knee in the optimal place.”