Over 80,000 joint replacements were performed in Australia last year making it one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in the country. This may well continue to rise in the coming years with the changing prevalence of arthritis and other conditions (ie fractures) that can result in a patient undergoing hip or knee arthroplasty.
Of paramount importance to the longevity of the joint replacement is the alignment of the components implanted into the patient. Malpositioned components can lead to unfavourable outcomes in terms of limb alignment, joint stability, range of motion, impingement pain and also accelerated wear and early failure.
As orthopaedic surgeons we strive to ensure optimal results for our patients undergoing joint replacement. We can go a long way to achieving this goal by ensuring accurate component placement and many methods can be used to help with this. One such method is the use of computer navigation in which a system of fixed trackers attached to the patient, are used as reference points. These fixed reference points are then combined with other points mapped out by your orthopaedic surgeon to enable the computer to generate a three dimensional model of the joint. These three dimensional models can then be used to guide bone resection and in the end, implant placement.
This type technology is most commonly used with knee replacements (primary, revision and unicompartmental) but with improvements in technology other joints are also being included, in particular hips. According to the national joint registry, a database that follows nearly all joint replacements in Australia, the use of computer navigation in knee arthroplasty has increase nearly 10-fold (2.3% to 22.3%) since 2003. At this stage no high level evidence exists to show that this technology results in better long term outcomes than more traditional techniques, however research into the area is continuing. It does provide a very useful tool in a variety of complicated situations such as significant limb deformity, previous fractures or previous surgery in which other alignment methods are unable to be used.
For more information, please make an appointment wit Dr Justin Munt on (08) 7325 4840.