PRINCETON — A new piece of medical technology that makes total knee and hip replacements more efficient and safer made its public debut Wednesday at a Mercer County hospital.

Members of the public and media visiting the Princeton Community Hospital Parkview Atrium were invited to view and even try the hospital’s new Mako SmartRobotics system for total knee and hip replacement.

PCH President and CEO Karen Bowling said the new system was good asset for the hospital.

“It’s actually a very big deal,” Bowling said. “Our commitment to our community is to always be a center of excellence. We have two great physicians, Dr. (Phil) Branson and Dr. (Fred) Morgan as well as all of our residents, and we wanted to make sure they have the state-of-the-art equipment that they need to take care of our patients.”

Bowling said the hospital to assure patients that when they arrive for a hip or knee replace, their surgeons will have the best equipment that is available.

“We have great services here at the hospital, good physical therapy. Everyone is focused on getting that patient the best care they can get in their local community; and so, this is our commitment to insure that our surgeons have the tools they need to do their job,” she said.

The Mako robot does not do the surgeon’s work, Branson said. The system’s computer imaging technology helps surgeons plan hip and knee replacements.

“This is a very powerful tool to improve the precision of doing hip and knee replacement and partial knee replacement,” Branson stated. “It gives us the opportunity to make a very personal plan; so instead of using an X-ray, we use a three-dimensional plan CT scan of the lower extremity and we reconstruct it in the computer and the exact details of the surgery on the computer.”

“What the robot then allows us to do is translate the very personal, individual plan into the operating room and then the robotic arm assists us with making the cuts so we execute the plan that we did digitally,” Branson said. “The second step is we can in surgery evaluate the results, the alignment and the balance and all of factors that contribute to the patient having a successful result, good motion and decrease in pain.”

The system results in a “much better” recovery for patients, he said.

When visitors used the Mako robotic arm on a simulated leg, it sounded like power tools found in many workshops; unlike those tools, the robot notifies the surgeons when the saw is getting too close to sensitive areas and stops cutting. This helps surgeons avoid cutting outside the bone and injuring a patient’s blood vessels or tendons, Branson said. 

The robot does not do surgeries on its own.

“This is not like the machines that build cars autonomously,” he said. “It’s more complicated than that. What this does is give us an assist to be able to make the bone cuts precisely.”

The bone to be operated on is registered in the digital plan, and the arm helps surgeons guide the saw blade and execute the plan which was drafted in the computer, Branson said. 

“The robot does not do the surgery,” he emphasized. “The surgeon uses the robot to do the surgery.”

After demonstrating the Mako robot, Morgan said that the hospital has been using it since May.

“It’s been great,” he said. 

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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