After being the only Tucson-area hospital to receive the top safety rating from a national panel, the Oro Valley Hospital now has something else no other Tucson hospital has- a technology known as MAKOplasty.

MAKOplasty, a surgeon-controlled, robotic arm-assisted technology, offers partial knee resurfacing for individuals with early to mid-stage osteoarthritis. In a retirement community known for its active adult lifestyles, MAKOplasty could be the answer for individuals living in pain but hesitant to pursue a full knee implant or partial implant through traditional means.

In July, the Oro Valley Hospital became the first in Southern Arizona to receive the innovative technology, and Orthopaedic Surgeon Kevin Bowers performed the first procedure on Aug. 1.

Bowers said several perks come with the use of MAKOplasty, the first of which is increased accuracy in comparison to traditional surgical implant methods.

“There are some studies that show that the accuracy is two to three times better with robotic assistance, and that’s really what we are trying to capture with our new system,” he said.

Patients will first receive a CT scan to see if he or she is an eligible candidate, generally one week to one month in advance. If eligible, doctors enter the data from the CT scan into the MAKOplasty robot, which then creates a three-dimensional model of the patient’s knee on a monitor. Bowers said the process helps eliminate potential for error.

“Using that 3-D model, we can plan the surgery preoperatively,” said Bowers. “The surgeon maintains control of the robot, which is really for guidance. Once you make the cut, as you approach the boundaries of the planned area on the knee, you will receive both an audible warning from the robot, and also, when you are entered into the window area, if you try to push the robot out of that window, it will stop you. It won’t let you work outside the area that was initially planned.”

Registered Nurse Penny Riera was one of those to assist Bowers with the first surgery, which she referred to as “great to watch,” referencing not only improved accuracy, but also a quicker recovery time for patients.

“It only fixes the area that is damaged, and it’s a smaller incision” she said. “With the traditional surgery, there is some guessing involved. This eliminates that. Our first patient left the next morning as opposed to a normal two or three day stay for a total joint. The physical therapy requirements postoperatively are two to four weeks with this procedure. For a total joint, it is six to eight weeks.”

Riera said the recovery time is less because less bone is cut in the procedure, and the implants are only about one-third the size of a total knee replacement. As a result, patients can expect less time in surgery, and smoother bone movement as they become mobile and active again.

As many benefits as MAKOplasty offers, Bowers said this category of surgery is not for everyone.

“This is for a subset of patients,” he said. “It’s probably for about 10 to 30 percent of candidates who would get total knee replacements that might be candidates for this partial knee replacement. The majority of patients are going to have to have a total knee replacement for arthritis that is more advanced. This is mainly for patients that have isolated pain in their knee, or if we are able to catch the arthritis early.”

According to Bowers, partial knee replacements using MAKOplasty have an effective lifespan of at least ten years.

Riera said arthritis most commonly develops with adults aged 45 to 65. She and Bowers encourage individuals living with knee pain to act sooner rather than later in order to catch arthritis at a stage early enough to qualify for the less invasive MAKOplasty surgery.

Some of the symptoms for potentially eligible candidates include: knee pain with activity, usually on the inner knee or under the kneecap, knee pain or stiffness when activities are initiated from a sitting position, and failure to respond to non-surgical treatments or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.

Bowers will be holding a seminar about partial knee implants on Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Oro Valley Hospital.

Dr. James Benjamin, another orthopedic surgeon with the Oro Valley Hospital, will be hosting a second seminar on Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. Visit and click on “Robotic Knee Resurfacing” to learn more and register for the upcoming seminar. Or, call 866-694-9355 and ask to register for the robotic knee-resurfacing seminar.


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