The Importance of Computer Navigation for Knee Surgery

When conservative treatments – such as physical therapy or anti-inflammatory medication – fail to resolve knee pain, an orthopedic specialist may recommend partial or total knee replacement surgery.

To be successful, an orthopedic surgeon must accurately align the knee replacement parts with the hip and the ankle.  The surgeon must also balance the soft tissue sleeve which supports the knee externally, so that as the knee moves throughout its range of motion, it is supported and the tension on this soft sleeve equal.  Replaced knees that are out of alignment are at risk for residual pain and early failure.

Traditionally, surgeons use rod-like instruments to measure the alignment between the hip, knee, and ankle.  This was not an exact science and often led to guessing and error.  Thanks to computer navigation, surgeons now have a minimally invasive tool in the operating room to calculate the exact center location of the hip joint and ankle. This allows for more precise and predictable re-creation of alignment and balancing.

Computer navigation in the operating room is a lot like the GPS tracking systems available in cars or planes or boats.  The software helps the surgeon know exactly where the patient’s body is in space. Minimally invasive wireless pointers and trackers send data pertaining to knee movement kinematics to the computer. This information is then translated into real-time images that provide the surgeon with a comprehensive understanding of the knee mechanics before any bone is cut. The trackers remain active throughout the surgery, providing the surgeon with feedback regarding the accuracy of bone cuts and overall alignment and balance prior to final implantation of the knee replacement prosthesis.

Computer navigation leads to a safer, more accurate, and longer lasting knee replacement surgery.  If you have questions or comments, please leave us a note below.