What smarter joint replacement care could look like in 5 years

Carly Behm -   Print  |
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Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City performed a landmark joint replacement in October using Zimmer Biomet's Persona IQ smart implant. The implant, which tracks patient movement data, is one of many recent advances that could transform joint replacement care.

Smart implants will enable better remote monitoring, tracking steps, range of motion and other metrics for patients and physicians, according to a news release from HSS . 

"The smart knee uses the same material and technology found in implanted cardiac devices such as pacemakers," Fred Cushner, MD, of HSS, said in the release. "It collects data every day during the first year following surgery, providing objective, accurate information on how the knee is functioning."

Persona IQ has a 10-year battery life, meaning patient-physician dialogue is expected to remain seamless long after initial recovery. With mobile app integration designed to make these conversations easier to conduct via telehealth, demand for "smart" implants likely will grow.

In the operating room, surgical robots continue to gain traction and will be bolstered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. Computer-assisted orthopedic surgery demand is expected to grow 5.5 percent from 2021-31, according to market research.

Factors driving this growth include the integration of AI and robotics. Exactech is one company capitalizing on this trend for shoulder replacements.

The company updated its Active Intelligence technologies to help surgeons during shoulder replacement procedures. Using machine learning and AI, the Predict+ software works to leverage predictive analysis and patient data to better predict outcomes. 

Robotics and artificial intelligence will have to grow hand in hand to reach their potential in joint replacements.

"Harnessing the power of the data collected and marrying it with postoperative outcomes will be challenging, but if accomplished, will provide an opportunity to improve an already successful procedure," said Jeffrey Hodrick, MD, of the Southern Joint Replacement Institute in Nashville, Tenn.

However, surgeons can't rely on technology alone when it comes to joint replacements, according to Richard Berger, MD, of Chicago-based Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush.

"I can tell you what I'm aiming at with my feel of doing the surgery, and I'm really good at that,” he said. “But the average robot is being programmed now by a college graduate who has no idea about orthopedic surgery replacement. That person programming the computer to do this is not an orthopedic surgeon, not someone with thousands of cases under their belt."

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