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In focus: Robotic arm assisted surgery

As the demand for the provision of quality healthcare services continues to increase, healthcare centres are making fundamental improvements that could not have been imagined a decade ago and which are designed to have a positive impact on patient outcomes, safety and satisfaction.

Recent advances in medical technology means that robotic arm assisted surgeries can now be found in operating theatres across the UK. For example, in March last year, Nuffield Health Exeter Hospital introduced Boris, a Mako robotic arm, which is now regularly assisting with hip and knee replacements.

While relatively simple to look at and requiring a human to move it, the Mako robotic arm makes a huge difference to the patient. As Nuffield explains: “Boris’s job begins long before the patient arrives for surgery. In the weeks prior, we take a 3D CT scan of the patient’s body and feed the information into Boris’s computer. Surgeons can then plan the operation within fractions of a millimetre with Boris’s assistance.”

“When it comes to surgery, Boris is spatially aware, meaning he can see where the patient’s body is in relation to everything else. He recognises the key landmarks from the scans and locks its sensors to them. He knows exactly where the patient is throughout the surgery, even if they move.”

Matching the planned surgery to the live environment is what makes the robotic arm so useful. Surgeons use the arm as an extension of themselves, guiding surgical tools to the correct position. It is this pinpoint accuracy that makes robotic arm assisted surgery so accurate in both hip and knee replacement surgeries and which is pushing results beyond what would have been possible in the past.

While surgeons are able to achieve excellent results without this type of robot assistance, the higher accuracy that it allows means the replacement fits as well as it possibly can and ensures the joint functions as normally as possible after surgery. This provides patients with a number of benefits including a shorter hospital stay, quicker recovery and higher satisfaction. Evidence also shows decreased pain and complications following a robotic arm assisted surgery.

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