Berkshire Medical Center presents robotic arm system at Brookdale

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BENNINGTON —A robotic arm assisting a partial hip and knee replacement was demonstrated for the community and residents at Brookdale at Fillmore Pond Senior Living center on Thursday.

MAKOplasty introduced RIO, the Robotic Arm Interactive Orthopedic system for a more accurate surgical placement. It helps surgeons personalize arthroplasties for optimal reproducibility. Berkshire Orthopaedic Associates at Berkshire Medical Center (BMC) in Pittsfield, Mass. has used the technology since last fall.

"One of the variables that contributes is how well is how the joint placement functions is how well it's put in. Anything we can do more precisely and will lead to better long term functioning," Jonathan C. Cluett, MD, said. "Every once and awhile there are issues that are hard to assess at the time of surgery and the robotic system just gives you one more check to make sure everything goes exactly as scheduled."

The first two full knee replacements have been done in Rhode Island and Florida as recently as last week, but will not be carried out at BMC until the end of 2016 due to a limited market release.

RIO does not advance surgery time, Cluett said.

"Typical joint replacement lasts between the 15 to 20 year range," he said. "Some last longer, some don't last that long. This technology has only been around for the last five years or so, so we don't know how much of a difference this is going to make. But by putting in the joint replacements more precisely that we will see benefits in the long term. We do know that joint replacements that aren't lined up properly tend to wear out more quickly."

United Counseling Service employee Thomas Simek lives in Bennington and just had a robotic assisted hip replacement surgery for his right side. For the first few days he had to use a walker, then a cane, but for the past eight days, he's been able to move on his own. The surgery was done by Cluett on June 14.

"I came out of the surgery and had next to no pain. The discomfort was maybe a three out of 10. I did not need any narcotic, opiate pain medication and haven't needed any since, only Tylenol and ice packs," Simek said. "I'm doing fine. The doctor gave me permission to start golfing again."

For the last year, Simek had crucial hip pain and aided it with a steroid injection or ibuprofen. Finally, his local orthopedic referred him to BMC. An x-ray revealed that he had no cartilage left on the joint.

"[Cluett] thought I was a candidate for the robotic arm. He just said that they are better able to place the socket and to get the length right so that I didn't need any lift in my shoe, so that both legs were equal," Simek said. "I was out of bed the same day. They connected me with the visiting nurses [in Bennington]. It was extraordinary."

The partial knee replacement surgery is less invasive and includes a presurgical plan based on a CT (cat) scan. The robotic arm is used to resurface the diseased portion of the knee to spare healthy bone and surrounding tissue, according to a release from MAKO. Then, the implant is secured in the joint.

For partial hip replacements, RIO offers a biomechanical data to guide the bone preparation and implant positioning in relation to the presurgical plan. The thigh bone and femur is then secured and the robotic arm reams and shapes the acetabulum socket in the hip, followed by the insertion of the femoral implant.

Berkshire Orthopaedic Associates serves Berkshire County and Southern Vermont with fellowship-trained surgeons who are dedicated to provide high quality care, according to its website. For more information, visit berkshirehealthsystems.org.

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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