Each year, approximately 600,000 total knee replacement procedures are performed in the United States, a number that is expected to rise exponentially in the next decade as the population ages.
Successful surgeries require precise alignment in the knee, a challenging task made even more daunting by the expected rise in procedures. To help meet this demand, UC San Diego Health System is the first in the nation to use iASSIST, a computer navigation system with Bluetooth-like technology that improves surgical precision and accuracy in total knee replacements, decreasing the need for revision surgery.
The FDA-approved iASSIST device, designed by Zimmer Holdings, Inc., allows the surgeon to verify each surgical step, such as bone cuts and overall alignment, in real time, reducing mechanical errors during total knee replacements. The device is made up of small electronic pods, which are essentially mini-computers with wireless technology similar to smartphones. These electronic pods snap onto conventional instruments used in knee replacement surgery. By simply moving the knee in different positions during surgery, the device registers the anatomic axis of the leg unique to that patient, which guides each bone cut and ultimately places the knee implant in a more accurate alignment.
This innovative technology allows us to deliver a more personalized knee to the patient and provide extreme accuracy in implant placement. Studies have shown that total knee replacement surgery has a higher failure rate when the knee is mal-aligned. This device enables orthopedic surgeons to restore a patient’s normal alignment with precision in a reproducible fashion, decreasing revision surgery and providing a more natural feel of the implant for the patient.
Current robotic and computer-assisted systems are less efficient and rely upon additional equipment, such as a large computer monitor in the operating room. The new device, about two inches wide, is the only piece of equipment needed to guide surgeons during a knee replacement. The iASSIST system allows us to bypass additional imaging and still get a patient-specific knee. This technology is quite intuitive and adds accuracy and precision to our instruments, giving us the ability to restore mechanical alignment with all patients regardless of their deformity.