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A new technique gives surgeons more precision in knee replacements

The knee is the most injured joint in the body, and a new technique is giving surgeons a way to make even more precise fixes.

CHICAGO — Each year, more than 800,000 people undergo knee replacement surgery in the United States. Today, 90% of all knee replacements last ten years, and 80% last 20 years. Robotic surgery has become a standard procedure. Now, a new technique is giving surgeons a way to be even more precise, allowing patients to heal faster and get back out there doing what they love.

From everyday wear and tear to the extreme — the knee is the most injured joint in the body.

Orthopedic knee specialist, Jeffrey H. DeClaire, MD was one of the first to perform a total knee replacement. Now he's one of the first to use navigation software that not only makes sure the new knee is in the exact right spot, but that the ligaments are as well.

“The BalanceBot is a method to measure ligament tension throughout the full range of motion on the inner half of the knee and the outer half of the knee,” Dr. DeClaire explained.

Traditionally, surgeons used their own experience and standard guidelines to position the ligaments around the implant.

“It didn't include the tension or the balance of ligaments," Dr. DeClaire added.

Now, BalanceBot is taking out the guesswork. The system creates a 3D model of the patient’s movement in real-time. After surgeons open the knee, two paddles on the BalanceBot are inserted, recording the range of motion. The software then proposes an initial implant plan based on the anatomy of each individual patient. The software can predict how much of the ligament should be saved to optimize balance and joint stability.

Clinical trials on more than 1,200 patients show a satisfaction rate of almost 98%, compared to 75% to 80% with a traditional knee replacement. With this method, ligament releases have been drastically reduced, which means less trauma to the tissue, quicker recovery, and better outcomes. 

Each surgery then goes into a database and AI continually updates outcomes and learns from each surgery, ultimately improving results each time.

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