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Hospital unveils robotic procedure

-Eric Stevens, president and CEO of Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center, presented the newest medical advancement in robotic-assisted surgery for orthopaedic patients.

Thursday, Stevens, along with Drs. Stephen Beissinger and J.C. Alvarez, demonstrated a process developed by Mako Surgical Corp., which combines the accuracy of robotic-guided implant placement with the physician's expertise to complete hip and knee replacement surgeries.

Describing the evaluation and surgical processes, Beissinger explained that a digitized version of the affected joint is loaded into the computer.

Alvarez talked about how the surgeon is now able to "completely plan the operation before beginning."

"The robotic assist allows us to complete the operation with precision. This is the most advanced technology available today," he said.

Bryant David, a MAKO representative, explained that the robotic assist is tested by the Food Drug Administration for accuracy within a 2mm tolerance.

The CT scan images and surgeon's plan are incorporated into a three-dimensional image that is connected to the MAKO robotic assist device.

The white area represents healthy bone and tissue, the green is the arthritic portion that must be removed.

There is a small bit on the end of the robotic arm that removes the diseased bone - the arm is restricted from moving beyond the green area on the screen, ensuring accuracy and conservation of as much healthy bone as possible.

The implants are available in a variety of sizes that will be custom-fit for each patient and placed for optimal alignment - another key factor in minimizing recovery time and maximizing patient comfort while ensuring longevity of the entire process.

Stevens talked about the belief that "our physicians keep in mind that this is likely the only knee or hip the patient will ever do" and how critical it is to get it right the first time.

Florida Hospital invested approximately $1 million in the technology.

Stevens talked about the current system of healthcare and how the majority of healthcare dollars are spent during the final two years in the average person's lifespan.

Florida Hospital and this team of physicians share a different goal: "To interact with patients earlier, with a lower cost, reducing the severity and longevity that people suffer from while allowing them to enjoy a more productive lifestyle."

Robert Esselman, a 68-year-old recent total hip replacement patient, spoke during the presentation.

"I was unable to enjoy swimming, riding my Harley, gardening and so much more. Life as I knew it was over. The nights were sleepless, the days were endless," he said.

After surgical and pre-operative consultations, the surgery was scheduled for Feb. 3.

"When I awoke, I felt no pain. I was walking the next day and home on the fourth day." He joked about how his neighbors weren't even aware he'd been gone, let alone had the surgery, and was already out and about the neighborhood. "I feel compelled to tell others about my experience. I would love to see others benefit from a positive surgical experience."

Christene Griffin, a registered nurse on staff at Florida Hospital and the Joint Care Coordinator, conducts seminars to educate prospective patients before and after replacement procedures.

While physical therapy following any replacement surgery is typically recommended for six to eight weeks, she said their patients are "doing amazing."

"I've seen a patient that was one day post-operative hip replacement walking the stairs," she said.

Mako Surgical Corp. is based in Ft. Lauderdale, was founded in 2004 and has pioneered the use of robotic assistance to provide less invasive means of completing certain orthopaedic surgeries.

While exact figures could not be obtained, both Stevens and Alvarez indicated that patients on Medicare are eligible for these procedures, with little or no difference in out-of-pocket expense.