André Brandon, 62, was back in time for supper on the day he underwent a robotic assisted total knee replacement procedure recently, and was walking and driving short distances just two weeks later.
“Robotic assisted knee and hip replacements are already showing great benefits and convenience for patients, such as Mr Brandon, with most people returning home within 24 hours of surgery, if not the same day,” says Dr Chris McCready, the orthopaedic surgeon who pioneered Mako robotic arm assisted total knee replacements in South Africa.
|Pic: Mr Andre Brandon and Dr ChrisMcCready
This World Bone and Joint Week, held until 20 October 2022, Dr McCready performed his 500th such procedure within three years at Netcare Linksfield Hospital.
“When we started, robotic assisted joint replacements were quite novel and yet now it has become normal and is quickly establishing as the new standard. As an experienced orthopaedic surgeon before I started using this robotic assisted approach, I find it allows for accurately reproduceible yet personalised hip and knee replacements,” Dr McCready says.
“My patients are recovering quicker and reporting less postoperative pain or discomfort than the same measures indicated for those who had joint replacements before with the traditional surgical technique. Many also appreciate returning home and getting off crutches sooner than otherwise.”
Mr Brandon, from George, had his other knee replaced by Dr McCready with traditional surgery nine years ago, and is in the rare position of being able to compare his experience of both types of knee replacement.
“I had been having trouble with my knee for some time, and I didn’t know anything about knee replacements but I didn’t want to have a big operation. Eventually, one of my clients in Brits mentioned to me that he had both legs’ knee replacements performed by Dr McCready. On his recommendation, my wife contacted Dr McCready the next day and got me an appointment,” Mr Brandon recalls.
“I am still so happy with the first knee he replaced, to this day it is 100% and it will probably keep me going as long as I’m alive. When I started having pain in my other knee, I trusted Dr McCready and so he was the only person I considered – even though this meant travelling halfway across the country, luckily I have been able to stay with family in North West,” he says.
Two knee replacements nine years apart
Dr McCready explained to Mr Brandon that this time he would perform the knee replacement assisted by the Mako robotic arm and that there is no extra cost associated with the technology. “As he said to me, he is still doing the operation, the robot helps with fine tuning and getting the alignment just right. These days technology is getting better and better, so I was interested to see what the robotic option would be like,” Mr Brandon says.
“When I had my other knee replaced in 2011, I spent four days in hospital. I was surprised that this time I didn’t even have to spend a night in hospital. I went in early and had the operation first thing in the morning. I was discharged at 4pm the same day, back with my new knee in time for supper.”
Mr Brandon says physiotherapy has been integral to his recovery from both knee replacements. “You have to put in the work, and learn to trust your new knee. It’s no good waiting until you are fully healed from the surgery, if you only start doing the physio exercises when your knee feels better, it is too late.”
Mr Brandon’s physiotherapist, Julie Keal Schietekat, agrees. “Irrespective of which type of hip or knee replacement a person has, physiotherapy is crucial to regaining full use of the joint. Every patient’s experience is unique and any pain is well controlled,” she says.
“Often patients have become so used to not putting weight on their bad knee or hip that after the replacement they find it quite a psychological barrier to overcome realising that they can walk on it so soon after surgery. I tell them, ‘Guaranteed, it is stronger than your other knee’.”
Reaching milestones sooner
Keal Schietekat has been working with Dr McCready’s patients for over 13 years. “Previously, we got patients up and walking on crutches the day after surgery, and they would be discharged home after three or four days. Whereas now, patients are up and going home on the same day in many cases after the robotic assisted procedure.
“These patients are also reaching their milestones much sooner, and at six weeks they no longer need even one crutch. Before, it was a challenge convincing patients they no longer needed a walking aid whereas now we find most people regain independence and full mobility much sooner.”
Those who live with hip or knee pain or are unable to enjoy their usual activities should not delay seeking a medical opinion, she adds. “Why live in pain for months or years, when in just a few weeks you could be on your way to a normal life again? There are solutions, and physiotherapy will help you through.”
General manager of Netcare Linksfield Hospital, Lisete Vieira, congratulated Dr McCready on the growth of the robotic assisted orthopaedic surgery programme and the benefits it has shown for patients, such as Mr Brandon, so far.
“The power of technology to improve the experience for patients, and the quality of care they receive, should be celebrated. We thank Dr McCready for introducing robotic assisted hip and knee replacements for the community we serve and fellow orthopaedic surgeon Dr Ana Garcez for picking up the torch too to meet the tremendous need for such procedures,” Vieira concluded.
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