“The inside of his knee had collapsed, and he’d lost all the cartilage on the left knee.” To relieve Payne from the arthritis, Gray used the Mako robotic arm to do a complete knee replacement on Payne. It’s a new procedure Citizens Memorial began performing in early 2020, and at press time, Citizens Memorial was the only hospital in southwest Missouri with the device. It looks a lot like the robotic arm you’d expect to find on the floor of an auto plant—except this one is small enough to roll into an operating room.
During the procedure, a 3D model of the patient’s knee is uploaded to the robot, so it knows exactly what bone or soft tissue needs to be removed. The robotic arm also takes real time readings of the pressure being put on the knee as it flexes or straightens. “This helps you balance the knee,” Gray says. Even better, the robot significantly decreases human error from the procedure and allows surgeons like Gray to make minuscule adjustments. “It can change the preoperative plan by 1 millimeter or rotate it 1 degree,” Gray says. “I could only wish to be that precise.” If the robot notices it’s about to deviate away from the 3D model, it shuts off. “Once you have the preoperative plan selected, the robot won’t let you go outside the boundaries,” Gray explains. “It protects soft tissue and means we don’t have to retract so much tissue.”
The robotic arm is so precise, patients’ recovery time has sped up. “I could get up and walk almost immediately,” Payne says. Payne went home the day after his knee replacement, and says he’d give the operation six stars out of five. “Everyone I see limping with a cane, I tell them to have this done,” he says. “It’s life changing.”