Here’s how robots are assisting doctors in orthopedic surgery, and why they’re beneficial

Surgeons work on a patient. (Photo by Павел Сорокин from Pexels.)

Many have likely heard about orthopedic robotic surgery, but what is it, exactly?

Rest assured, robots aren’t running the show in the operating room. Surgeons are in control and execute the surgical plan while robots help with precision.

For the past decade, robots have become important assistants in orthopedic operating rooms, and we will continue to see many more advancements in this field.

In fact, studies have shown that there are better outcomes and benefits with robot-assisted surgeries.

Benefits of robot-assisted surgery

Using joysticks and foot controls, the surgeon can view the procedure through a 3D monitor.

After creating a CT scan of a patient’s knee, for example, robots can produce a 3D model that demonstrates where the total knee should be placed. If a surgeon is about to saw the bone a millimeter or more outside the boundary provided, the robot will correct the positioning.

Studies also show that these more precise procedures result in fewer mistakes and less blood loss. Robotic surgery also leads to shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery within the first few weeks after surgery.

Robot-assisted surgeries are also slightly less likely to lead to post-surgery complications than laparoscopies. About 8% of robotic operations led to complications, compared with 9% of conventional laparoscopies.

What do robots do in the operating room?

The FDA-approved orthopedic surgeries most often assisted by robots are:

  • Total knee replacement.
  • Total hip replacement.
  • Total shoulder replacement.
  • Total ankle replacement.

Robots also perform a variety of tasks in the operating room, overseen by the surgeon. Some of these tasks include:

  • Modeling of the joint.
  • Preoperative planning.
  • Precise soft tissue handling.
  • Precise osteotomy, or cutting and reshaping bone.

The most important part of orthopedic replacement surgeries is the precision of the osteotomy, and robots can complete these tasks within a millimeter of accuracy.

With 3D technology, robots can ensure that a patient’s joint is balanced and that the range of motion perfectly fits their body.

This “extra pair of hands” can also help surgeons preserve their own hands and extend their careers.

Training for surgical robotics

Doctors complete a certain number of hours during their residency and fellowship to be qualified to use robotics in the orthopedic operating room. They also must complete a certification, an online class and lab work for each type of replacement.

Even though robotic surgery is performed by surgeons -- not robots -- robotic technology can help surgeons be as exact as possible with their patients and lead their patients to the best outcome possible.

Learn more about the orthopedic experts and sports medicine specialists at Orlando Health Jewett Orthopedic Institute.