In Orthopedics, The Future is ... When?
This article was originally published in Start Up
Futurists in orthopedics are watching two different technology trends--computer assisted surgery, on the one hand and minimally-invasive surgery on the other--neither of which has had a major impact in the past. But together, the two may be able to bring a revolution which each has failed on its own.
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Despite orthopedic surgeons' conservative reputation when it comes to new technology adoption, high-tech devices are increasingly finding a place in this field. There have been recent developments in robotic computer-assisted surgery and other high-tech enabling tools that could lead to wider acceptance of these devices by surgeons better known in the past for eschewing such "frills." Although there are exceptions, most manufacturers seeking success in this market appear to have learned from the mistakes of the past, and many, instead of offering technology for technology's sake, are now trying to provide surgeons with what they really want - products that offer a value-added benefit to their practice.
Across a wide range of specialties, the unique features of minimally invasive surgery provides a consistent array of beneifts to patients, and orthopedic surgeons have worked hard over the past several years to reduce the size of incisions in hip and knee replacement. Skeptics argue that, given the extremely high success rates of conventional hip and knee replacement surgery, any movement toward MIS should be slow and should look beyond patient appeal to focus on long-term results. For MIS leader Zimmer, the bet on the new technique is a big one. The widespread adoption of MIS in orthopedics is less about the transformation of a procedure than about the transformation of a company and an industry.
It has been nearly a decade since the promise of medical robotics, first unveiled in orthopedic surgery, was introduced with the launch of the Robodoc surgical system. But robotics and other computer-assisted tools such as navigation systems failed to live up to their early hype, and surgeons were slow to adopt the new technology. However, according to presentations made at this year's American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) meeting, held in February in Dallas, improved technology appears to be generating increased interest among orthopedic surgeons in robotics, navigation systems, and other computer-assisted tools, resulting in the emergence of a new sub-specialty called computer-assisted orthopedic surgery (CAOS).