A recent article, published in the Journal of Arthroplasty by 3 premiere total joint surgeons, sheds truth on the current state of robotics in joint replacement. The title of this article gives the reader some sense of its conclusions, “Robotics in Hip and Knee Arthroplasty: Real Innovation or Marketing Ruse.” This blog will itemize the most salient points presented by these masters of joint replacement
The push for robotics is being driven more by industry than by surgeons or academics.
To date, this technology has never proven (in 15 years of use) to benefit patients in terms of faster recovery, better outcomes, few complications or better implant durability.
There are nuances to the soft tissue balancing of a knee replacement that a robot cannot be programmed to perform. This aspect of the surgery is the most critical to its success.
Robotics adds substantial cost to the case. This cost is not offset by any metric that otherwise reduces cost elsewhere and thus this cost is passed on to the consumer and the insurance payer while increasing profits for the company that makes the robot.
Hospitals are largely purchasing these systems to attract patients on the basis that a higher volume of surgeries will offset the increased cost and pay for the robot. Given the lack of clinical evidence leading to improved value for the patient, this effectively translated into a marketing ruse.
The current promises that are used to lure patients to this technology are not backed up by clinical outcomes data, meaning the gains are more psychological than actual.
Robotic joint replacement promises much and delivers very little. Prospective patients who are unknowing can be easily convinced of the benefits of robotic precision, but the lack of clinical evidence relegates any such benefits to false claims.
The surgeons who benefit most from robotics are low volume surgeons who have not mastered the art of joint replacement through countless hours of experience and repetition. You should choose your surgeon and not your technology.
Our position at the Knee, Hip and Shoulder Center backs the truth as put forth in this article. Robotics is currently an expensive marketing scheme largely benefitting industry with little added benefit to the patient. Unknowing patients are falsely led to believe in the benefits of this technology based on the successful penetration of robotics into other aspects of manufacturing and their expected continued growth in health care. We believe in technology that works and not false claims that add substantial costs to patient care that only supports industry growth for the sake of shareholder profit. We will put our clinical results up against any surgeon who uses the robot.