In a first for the African continent, a total knee replacement operation was carried out on a patient using the state-of-the-art Mako robotic arm assisted surgery system.

The surgery was performed at the Netcare Linksfield Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The hospital’s orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Chris McCready, performed the ground-breaking operation.

“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 personalized joint replacement,” said McCready.

The technologically advanced system for total knee replacement is already well established in Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Last year, the system which can also be used for hip and partial knee replacements, was used in over 250 000 procedures internationally.

Prior to surgery, the system draws data from a computed tomography (CT) scan of the patient’s knee. This is in order to develop a three-dimensional pre-operative plan that is unique to each individual.

This said Dr McCready, 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 provides detailed visual, auditory and tactile feedback to the surgeon.  This helps to enhance surgical precision in positioning and aligning the knee implants.

The system which is controlled by the surgeon at all times, provides an additional safeguard for the patient.

It ensures that only the specific areas identified in the personalized per-surgical plan can be operated on, and thus prevent damage to critical structures within the knee.

“Benefits for patients that have been noted in outcomes recorded internationally for this advanced surgical option include the achievement of a better balanced, and more natural feeling implanted knee, less post-operative pain and quicker recovery time,” said Dr McCready.

Jacques du Plessis, the Managing Director of Netcare’s hospital division, said the introduction of the system at the Gauteng hospital has the potential to significantly enhance patient outcomes. In appropriate cases, the system provides greater choice in terms of the surgical options available for individuals requiring total knee replacements.

“International studies indicate that this intervention reduces the length of hospital stays and recovery times. By making advanced medical technology such as this available in South Africa, we look forward to realizing similar benefits for our patients,” said du Plessis.

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