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Alexandria company shows how robotic arm improves knee, hip replacements

A presentation on the robotic arm was given as part of Ortho Night Out on May 25.

Robotic arm.jpg
The Mako robotic arm is utilized in such operations as hip and knee replacements.
Contributed photo
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ALEXANDRIA — It was a packed house for Ortho Night Out, a group of presentations that gave information about the latest advancements in orthopedics, including a robotic arm.

The event took place May 25 at Broadway Ballroom and was presented by Heartland Orthopedic Specialists, a service of Alomere Health.

Dr. Dennis Weigel, an orthopedic surgeon focused primarily on hip and knee reconstruction, discussed the Mako robotic arm, which is used in those surgeries.

"If you had told me 22 years ago that I would be using a robot in my hip and knees I would have told you you were nuts, but it has really provided immense benefits for all of our patients for the improved accuracy that it allows," Weigel said.

The facility has two robotic arms, he said.

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"Basically it's a base with an arm, and the arm attaches to the instruments that we utilize doing a hip or knee replacement," Weigel said. "We're still the ones doing the surgery. We're not sitting in a bathrobe drinking coffee at a computer terminal. This is a tool, and a very accurate and wonderful tool that we utilize.

"The benefit that it provides for us as surgeons (is) accuracy, which then translates to better recovery for our patients," he said.

Most patients can go home soon after their surgery, which Weigel said is a big change from when he started in 2000, when patients stayed seven to 10 days in the hospital.

"Now, their length of stay is about 30 hours," he said.

Using the robotic arm, knee patients undergo less swelling, the surgeons don't have to instrument the bones as much and soft tissue is treated a little more kindly than with manual techniques, Weigel said.

For hip replacements, the robot allows the surgeons to assess leg length very accurately, Weigel said.

"(In the past), we were making measurements on regions, not points, and so there were some folks that sometimes would have a leg that was a little bit longer than the other," he said. "The robot allows us to very accurately assess the leg length, so we don't have to make that compromise as much."

As far as putting the socket in, the robot can dial the socket in accurately every time, Weigel said. "It's like shooting with a high-quality scope versus open sights," he said. "Yeah, you can probably hit the target every now and then … but if you're shooting with a good scope with a high-powered rifle, you're going to hit the bullseye."

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Weigel said he looks at the robotic arm as the evolution of joint replacement, and encouraged people with problems to have them taken care of.

"If you're having issues, get in, get seen, try to figure out what the problem is, and then talk about the options," he said.

Dr. Emily Monroe and Dr. Eric Nelson also presented at the event.

Travis Gulbrandson covers several beats, including Osakis School Board and Osakis City Council, along with the Brandon-Evansville School Board. His focus will also be on crime and court news.
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