With the arrival of its new state-of-the-art robotic technology, Armidale Private Hospital is now the only facility in regional NSW to offer patients access to the Mako robot.
The Mako system is a highly advanced, surgeon-controlled robotic arm that increases the accuracy of total knee replacements, and the only place between Newcastle and the Gold Coast you can find one is in Armidale, with the other 8 located in either Newcastle or Sydney.
Total knee replacements are the most common joint replacement globally and make up most of the 200 joint replacements orthopedic surgeon Dr Neil Ferguson carries out each year.
"It's a very common operation, and it's successful, but it has never been quite as successful as hip replacements, and a lot of research has been done to find out why," Dr Ferguson said.
"In the old days, we tried to make a crooked knee straight, and some people are born with crooked knees, and that is what their ligaments have adapted to, so there is a lot of evidence which says we should make the surgery more personalised and that is what this robotic process does.
"It's a game-changer. I really believe eventually surgical robots will be everywhere."
Dr Ferguson has been lobbying Ramsay Health Care (the hospital owners) to buy the $2 million technology for three years. He said he was over the moon to now have the Mako robot at Armidale Private Hospital.
"It's just amazing technology and certainly there's increasing evidence that shows a benefit to patients having robotic knee replacements in terms of better alignment of the knee and reported patient outcomes," Dr Ferguson said.
"The technology software for the robot means I can plan the operation really accurately and during the operation you can put the knee through a whole range of motion and feel for any stiffness, then modify the plan based on the ligaments.
"It means I can give the patient a perfectly balanced knee."
The Mako robot constructs a 3D model using a pre-operative CT scan and generates a plan around minute variations in a patient's anatomy.
When the surgeon prepares the bone for implant, the robotic arm guides the surgeon within a predefined area to ensure placement accuracy, alignment of the implant and minimal disruption to the soft tissue.
Armidale Private Hospital chief executive officer Mary Single said it was wonderful to now offer robotic technology to the local community.
"We want to keep patients local, without having to drive hundreds of kilometres or fly to Sydney or Brisbane to have access to the Mako robotic system," Ms Single said.
"I'm really passionate about offering the latest technology to the people of Armidale and our surrounding regions and I thank Dr Ferguson for his dedication in bringing the Mako system here."
Glen Innes resident Carl Toovey was the first patient to undergo a total knee replacement using the Mako robot at Armidale Private Hospital on Tuesday April 27.
"When Dr Ferguson first told me I needed a new knee I said no bloody way, but I went away and came back and said to him you're right, I need to get this done," Mr Toovey said with a laugh.
"I did a bit of research and I looked up the robot and they actually showed an operation being done - the technology just looks amazing and now that it's right here in Armidale why would I go anywhere else?"
Other benefits of the custom surgery facilitated by the Mako system include a reduced length of stay in hospital and quicker recovery time for the patient.
Mr Toovey was walking with no pain two hours after he came out of surgery and was discharged in three days.
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