Robotic Knee Surgery and home the same day: Part 2

Having knee replacement surgery used to mean weeks in bed and, sometimes, months to recover.

Now, thanks to the help of a robot, doctors can use pinpoint accuracy to find the problem causing knee pain, and many times, patients now go home the same day, walking on a cane.

In part two of a special Medical Moment, we go inside the O-R to see just how this robot named Rio and doctors work their magic.

Having said goodbye to his family, 57-year-old Darrell Gill is wheeled down to the O-R, where his surgical partner is a robot named Rio.

That does not mean there is no use for skilled surgeons and a fully equipped operating room. It is just that a lot of the leg work is done prior to surgery with a CT scan and a software program giving doctors a 3D view, and the robotics offer patient’s precision like never before.

Dr. Fred Ferlic explains, "We're putting in pins so the robot can track the computer program, so that it's 100% accurate."

Led by South Bend orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ferlic, his team includes Dr. Bob Clemency and Dr. Michael Kelbel.

They are the only doctors in Indiana performing this outpatient state of the art surgery.

Dr. Kelbel explains how new technology helps them with accuracy. He says, "These sensors tell the computer exactly where the knee actually is."

As Dr. Ferlic rotates Darrell’s leg, the computer inputs information about the exact dimensions of the knee.

"Now, what we're going to do is we're going to plot a bunch of points here."

With the calculation complete, it is time to make the incision into the knee.

It is the only incision Dr. Ferlic will need to make.

With his eyes on Darrell and the computer, Dr. Ferlic uses a probe to map out the arthritic bone he will be removing.

Dr. Ferlic says, "The blue dots are where we are touching bone with this device here to tell the computer where the actual bone is, and then it will compare the points here with the actual CAT scan, and that will tell the robot where to do the cutting."

After about 30 minutes of prep that seems part video game, it’s time for the trial implants.

Testing Darrell's leg extension along the way, the team likes what they see.

With Darrell's arthritic bone removed, the knee cap untouched and no ligaments damaged, it is time to put the permanent implants in.

Almost as mind boggling as being able to go home later in the afternoon, just minutes after he is stitched up and wrapped, Darrell give us thumbs up.

Six hours later, we found him with Dr. Ferlic, walking with a cane, admittedly with some pain, but ready to get home.

Darrell says, "I can walk with a cane, I can walk up and down the steps, so I think it turned up real well…It will feel good not to have pain in my right knee."

Dr. Ferlic says the robo-doctor combination will revolutionize hip and knee surgery within the next five years.

He says, "It's going to be better for the patient, and it's going to be better for the surgeon because we're going to have better results…There's no question, that this is the future"

Just as planned, Darrell went home that afternoon and is said to be healing up just fine.

This procedure is generally covered by insurance because it means less recovery time and no general anesthetic. Darrell had just an epidural.

The doctors you saw from South Bend Orthopaedics are the only ones in Indiana performing this outpatient surgery.

For more information about South Bend Orthopaedics, click here.

To read the first part of this story, click here.

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