Innovation in Orthopaedic Surgery
12 April 2018
Innovation is a frequently-used word in the NHS these days, and also in private practice. We will feature innovative ideas by other surgical specialities in future posts, but first are some exciting examples of innovation in orthopaedic surgery. Sir Bruce Keogh, who recently stepped down as Medical Director of NHS England, said “Innovation is not an option but a necessity if we are to build a sustainable NHS”.
Robot-assisted Orthopaedic surgery
One of the most well-known innovations in orthopaedics has been robotic hip or knee surgery. Robots have assisted orthopaedic surgeons in the UK for over 20 years. The first orthopaedic robot was Robodoc, developed by IBM in 1986. Since then, companies such as Smith & Nephew (who acquired the Navio robot in 2016) have invested hugely in the technology. Understandably, the cost of purchasing a robotic system can be enormous for hospitals, who are understandably keen on benefits such as reduced hospital stays, fewer revisions and higher patient satisfaction.
However, little high quality evidence has been found to support these benefits, as long-term randomised clinical trials are yet to be carried out in the UK. Yet it’s hard to imagine companies or hospitals slowing research into robotic surgery, especially if more rigorous evaluation is forthcoming.
Innovation without technology
Innovation in Orthopaedics doesn’t always need to involve technology. Surgeons have been working on anaesthetic techniques to bypass the need for a general anaesthetic for hip and knee surgery as well as upper limb operations. Patients are awake throughout, with fewer side effects and a quicker recovery time. 2
This next example is child’s play. Catrin Wigley, Vittoria Bucknall and Simon Fleming worked with nine-year-olds to redesign a leaflet on Hip Arthroplasty. Reasoning that the average reading age in the UK is nine, they rewrote the text and added drawings to make the information more accessible to patients.
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Andy Foley is an independent broker with more than 20 years’ experience in the healthcare industry. He’s the MD of Bespoke Medical Indemnity, a commercial provider of medical indemnity insurance