Joint human, robot venture comes to Berkshire Medical Center

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Photo Gallery | Berkshire Health Systems debuts orthopaedic robot

PITTSFIELD — There's a new robotic arm in town, and it's ready to lend surgeons a hand.

Berkshire Health Systems this week introduced Mako Arthroplasty, the $1 million apparatus that will be used in Berkshire Medical Center by orthopaedic surgeons in joint replacement surgery.

While the surgeons still perform the procedure and make the decisions, the Mako simply helps them do that with more precision, according to Dr. Kevin Mitts, an orthopaedic surgeon with Berkshire Orthopaedic Associates.

"This is the emerging technology in joint replacement," Mitts said. "It helps the surgeon achieve better outcomes."

In a partial knee replacement, Mitts said, precise alignment of the new material is critical to longer term durability of the replacement.

The acquisition was proposed by the orthopaedic surgical staff and vetted thoroughly by the surgeons and company officials, according to BHS spokesman Michael Leary.

Berkshire Medical Center is the first hospital in Western Massachusetts and the Albany market to use the Mako system, and the first in the state of Massachusetts to use this latest version — which is version 3.0 — of the system.

The technology will be used in knee and hip replacement procedures. There are about 500 joint replacement surgeries performed at BMC annually.

The robotic arm and the computer software can help the surgeon determine the exact alignment needed as he or she is performing the surgery, and allows the doctor to adjust if necessary during the procedure.

"Proper orientation of the replacement is critical, and with this technology you can change it on the fly," Mitts said. "If the alignment is good, then the implant will last longer."

The apparatus also sets limits.

The surgeon actually holds the tool, which is attached to the robotic arm. The software is programmed with the width, length and depth of the procedure area on the joint. If the surgeon were to mistakenly try to exceed that area, the arm will freeze and the drill, for example, will stop.

"It takes out a little of the fudge factor," Mitts noted.

In January, BMC's orthopaedic joint replacement program, which was launched in 2009, was given the Healthgrades 2015 Joint Replacement Excellence Award and ranked among Healthgrades America's 100 Best Hospitals for Joint Replacement.

Dr. John Cluett, a surgeon with Orthopaedic Associates of Northern Berkshire, said the new apparatus will help to build on that success.

"It helps us as we grow this service we provide using the same approach, and the same procedure, with a higher degree of precision, which is critically important to long term success," he said.

Contact Scott Stafford at 413-496-6301.


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