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This fall Mount Auburn Hospital is implementing state-of-the-art technology to assist in joint replacements and other surgical procedures. Computer assisted surgery, also called computer assisted surgical navigation, is only available at some hospitals in the country and offers surgeons and patients significant benefits.

Robert Miegel, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at Mount Auburn Hospital, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, says, “The addition of computer assisted surgery will greatly enhance our orthopedic surgical capabilities. This is a very advanced technology that will allow us to perform highly accurate procedures because we will be able to view them on the computer while they are taking place.”

Computer assisted surgery is primarily used for knee replacements. It is very important during a knee replacement procedure to make sure that the implant replacing the damaged joint is positioned very accurately. If the implant is not placed precisely where it needs to be, the replacement may not work as well for the patient as is possible. Computer assisted surgery helps the surgeon insure that the implant is properly positioned.

During computer assisted surgery, tracking devices are attached to the bones and to the cutting tools to guide surgeons during surgery. These devices have sensors that are able to detect the movement of joints and limbs during surgical procedures. This sensor information is transmitted to a computer with a screen display that reveals what is happening during the procedure. When the bone cuts are made, the computer can verify the cuts. During minimally invasive surgery, some of the cuts can’t be seen directly and the computer provides an important role in making sure the cuts are accurate.

The range of motion and alignment of the knee can be mapped before, during and after surgery by these tracking devices. As a result, the positioning of the knee joint during and after surgery can be compared to the knee’s position before surgery and help the surgeon evaluate the effectiveness of the procedure. The result is an accurate measurement of the way the joint functions in the limb. If the limb is working well, then it is likely that the patient will recover more quickly and ultimately have good mobility in the joint.

Computer assisted surgery can aid in both minimally invasive procedures and standard open surgical procedures; however, Dr. Miegel points out that combining computer assisted surgery with minimally invasive procedures is particularly helpful since it allows the surgeon to see the bones and joints at the surgical site more clearly than is normally the case.

Dr. Miegel says, “This new technology will be very good for patients. Because we can see where the implant is placed much more accurately, we believe the result will be more successful procedures for our patients and speedier recoveries.”