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Mako Q&A with Dr. McLean, Orthopedic Surgeon

Q: Of all the technology the ortho team could have invested in, why did you choose Mako?  

A: The Mako system has completely transformed the way joint replacement surgery is performed. Mako is the first and only robotic technology that can be used across the joint replacement service line to perform total knee, total hip, and partial knee replacements. There is no match on the market to date. The technology is used not only to create a personalized surgical plan prior to surgery, but also used during the surgery to make any necessary adjustments based on the patient’s unique anatomy. This technology is truly one of a kind. For myself and Oaklawn, it’s exciting to be the first and only hospital in Calhoun County to offer this advanced robotic technology. 

Q: How does Mako impact the way you personally perform surgeries? What challenges does it help you overcome? 

A: The Mako system utilizes a patient’s CT scan to create a 3D model of the patient’s knee. This allows me to create a personalized surgical plan before entering the operating room. Additionally, during the surgery, Mako provides precise information in real time, taking into account the patient’s unique anatomy. This allows me make changes and to customize implant positioning. Having a combination of a patient’s CT scan, the 3D bone model, and virtual feedback during surgery truly allows for an optimal experience in my hands. Since every single patient is different, this is very encouraging to have information at my fingertips that I’ve never had before. 

Q: How are patients responding to the addition of Mako?

A: Patients are very excited about this technology and word is spreading, so our office has been quite busy. Research has shown that many people suffering from arthritis prolong a recommended joint replacement surgery for many years. The response from patients after hearing about Mako is transforming that. It’s truly been a game-changer for our community. 

Q: For some people, the thought of robots in surgery might be a little frightening. Can you talk about how a surgeon’s human touch is still a big part of the procedures that are performed? 

A: I tell all of my patients this: the surgery is still a joint replacement and I am still the surgeon performing the entire surgery. The Mako system’s robotic arm is surgeon-guided, meaning that it cannot work independently. Mako provides me with key information to customize each surgical plan and helps me execute this plan by increasing accuracy of the bone cuts through the use of the robotic arm. It’s important to understand that the robotic arm functions only within a pre-determined boundary, which is set by myself. I think Mako provides the perfect combination of robotic precision and human touch.

Q: What type of training is required for a surgeon to use Mako? 

A: There is a required two-day training and certification process that must be completed prior to performing surgery with Mako. The training portion is led by orthopedic surgeons across the country, from both large academic centers and private settings. 

Q: Is Mako robotic-assisted joint replacement surgery just for seniors? 

A: No. The patient population for joint replacement surgery has changed. People are exercising and playing sports earlier, meaning the risk of ligament injuries (knee) is increasing at a younger age. This sets the stage for arthritic problems at an earlier time than in years past. Aging baby boomers also want to stay active and have an improved quality of life – knee replacement surgery, including total knee and partial knee replacements, may be ideal for some. By setting up an appointment, we can discuss your specific situation and determine what surgery, if any, would best fit your needs. 

Q: What advice do you have for people who are struggling with chronic joint pain and want to return to a more active lifestyle?

A: Arthritis naturally causes people to slow down, but having an arthritic joint doesn’t mean your days of staying active or playing sports like golf are over. Exercise is an important part of any treatment plan, helping to increase your range of motion and flexibility, as well as strengthen your muscles. There are non-surgical treatment options, including injections, which may be of benefit as well. If conservative treatment fails, joint replacement surgery may be recommended to improve your quality of life. Mako robotic-arm assisted surgery is really at the cutting edge, and provides an ideal option for joint replacement. Every patient’s symptoms are unique. By working with an orthopedic surgeon, we can help create a plan that works best for you.

Contact us today to learn more or to schedule an appointment!