Orthopaedic surgeon Dr Chris McCready performed a total knee replacement operation using the state-of-the-art Mako robotic-assisted surgery system, the first such procedure in Africa. He is pictured in theatre with scrub technician, Katlego Modise.

In a first for the African continent, a full knee replacement operation has been carried out using the state-of-the-art Mako robotic arm assisted surgery system.

According to Netcare, the surgery was performed at its Linksfield Hospital in Johannesburg.

“There is no national register for local total knee replacements currently, but with an estimated 8 000 to 10 000 total knee replacements taking place in South Africa each year, this technology could signal a new era in personalised joint replacement,” said orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Chris McCready, who performed the operation.

The system for total knee replacements was already well established in Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom, said McCready.

Last year, it was used for over 250 000 procedures internationally, and can also be used for hip and partial knee replacements.

One of the major advantages of the robotic-assisted surgical system was that it drew data from a computed tomography (CT) scan of the patient’s knee prior to surgery. This was used to develop a three-dimensional pre-operative plan unique to each individual.

“This technology determines the dimensions for the surgical cuts to the bone surfaces, so that the best sized implanted joint components can be selected for each patient, and the placement and alignment of the implanted components can be planned in advance.

“During the operation, the robotic arm system provides detailed visual, auditory and tactile feedback to the surgeon, which helps to enhance surgical precision in positioning and aligning the knee implants,” said McCready.

The robotic arm system is controlled by the surgeon at all times and provides an additional safeguard for the patient because it ensures that only the specific areas identified in the personalised pre-surgical plan can be operated on. This prevents damage to critical structures within the knee.

“Benefits for patients that have been noted in outcomes recorded internationally for this advanced surgical option include the achievement of a better balanced and more natural-feeling implanted knee, less post-operative pain and quicker recovery time.”

According to the managing director of Netcare’s hospital division, Jacques du Plessis, the development had the potential to significantly enhance patient outcomes.

“In appropriate cases, [it] provides greater choice in terms of the surgical options available for individuals requiring total knee replacements,” said Du Plessis.