Robotic Assistance in Orthopaedic Surgery: A Proof of Principle Using Distal Femoral Arthroplasty

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The term “robot” refers to a precision mechanical device that is accurately controlled by a computer using intelligent software. The term “robotic assistance” refers to the use of such a device to aid a surgeon in the optimal conduct of a procedure, particularly one requiring specified geometrical relationships. The authors have been exploring the application of robotic assistance in situations in which accuracy and precision are required in orthopaedic surgery. The initial application concerned the planning, positioning, and orientation cuts and holes of the bone required for the femoral component of a total knee arthroplasty. A three-dimensional digitizing template allowed the surgeon to specify the desired position and orientation of the component's articular surfaces in relation to the distal femur. The robotic system used this spatial relationship, along with its knowledge of the geometry of the component selected by the surgeon, to plan the precise location of the required bone cuts and holes. Finally, the robotic assistant sequentially positioned saw and drill guides with respect to the distal femur so that the surgeon made these cuts and holes in the locations necessary for optimal component fit, position, and orientation. The robotic assistant functioned easily in the operating room environment; increased the accuracy; and decreased the time, equipment, and personnel required for the conduct of the geometrical part of this surgical procedure.

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