Among the more recent advancements in minimally invasive surgery (MIS) for total joint replacement is the computer-assisted navigation system. A computer-assisted navigational system in orthopaedic joint replacement surgery is similar to the location and directional tracking systems used for cars and ships. It works like a global positioning system for the surgeon. This new, sophisticated software allows surgeons to better navigate the joint area with minimal risk.
During a MIS total hip replacement surgery or total knee replacement surgery, a surgeon makes a much smaller incision or incisions than those of a traditional joint replacement surgery. This means the surgeon’s visual scope is confined to a smaller area and to the images from a high-resolution miniature camera. Incorporating a computer-assisted navigational system into the surgery offers surgeons a better computer picture of precisely where an instrument or artificial joint part is in relation to the patient’s own anatomy.
In a computer-assisted navigational system, tiny sensors are incorporated into specially designed surgical instruments. Immediate, real-time feedback about the position and movement of the instruments is seen on a computer screen. In addition, sensors may be attached to the joint bones at the beginning of surgery and built into the artificial joint replacement parts. When the navigational technology shows the surgeon that everything is lined up properly inside the joint, the surgeon can precisely attach the artificial joint components in place.
The visual confirmation provided by the computer navigational system for the surgeon who is working with minimal incision sizes allows the surgeon to perform a more accurate implantation of the artificial joint.
Computer-assisted navigation is not necessary for all joint replacements. Disadvantages include the additional time added to the procedure, and the need to place the tracking pins into bone at the time of the procedure.