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Healthwatch 16: Mako Robotic Arm

GEISINGER MEDICAL CENTER -- Robotics is a real buzz word in the medical field these days. There are lots of new advances when it comes to using robotic technology during surgery.

Officials at Geisinger Health System are excited about something called the Mako Robotic Arm, which they're now using for joint replacements.

He's walking slowly and with a cane, but then again, Matt Pruchnik, 57, of Orangeville, had a knee replacement surgery just three weeks before we met him at Geisinger's Woodbine facility near Danville. Matt's knee had bothered him for years, and as owner of the popular Berrigan's Sub Shop on Main Street in Bloomsburg, he was on his feet all the time.

"Pain all the time, it would keep me awake at night. Walking, standing, I would feel the pain," Pruchnik said.

An MRI showed Matt and his doctor the extent of the damage.

"I had no idea it was that bad. I thought a few shots or injections but he said there was nothing left on the inside of my knee."

Matt needed a knee replacement.

Dr. Michael Suk, chief of the Musculoskeletal Institute at Geisinger Health System, spoke with us about the piece of equipment that was used in the procedure on Matt's knee, called the Mako Robotic Arm.

"Because the Mako robot allows us to do the surgery through smaller incisions and less soft tissue dissection, we expect that the muscle damage during the surgery is less. And as a result, we think you'll recover faster," Dr. Suk said.

Where before, a surgical team may use cutting guides to make the incision, Dr. Suk says the Mako Robotic Arm provides much better precision for the surgeon, who is still in control the entire time.

"The surgeon is holding the saw in order to make the cuts, but the robot arm is guiding it exactly the way we have pre-operatively planned it," Dr. Suk explained.

As for Matt, he says the pain is still there for now, but physical therapy is helping him to get stronger and see better range of motion every day. He's back at the restaurant, too.

"I've been going in now two, three hours a day this past week just to get on it more. (It's) more therapy than actually helping out!"

Dr. Suk says the Mako robotic technology has been used a dozen times since the beginning of the year alone in the hospital system, and he expects it'll be used in some 200 more cases this year.