Innovations in surgical instruments and capabilities have substantially increased the volume of procedures being performed on any given day — and increased the physical burden on orthopedic surgeons.
Many years ago, the busiest surgeons would conduct three orthopedic procedures per week, said Andrew Ekdahl, worldwide president of joint reconstruction at DePuy Synthes. But now those busiest surgeons are performing more than nine procedures per day, multiple days each week.
“The physical burden of orthopedics has gone up dramatically. If we can do things to reduce that physical burden, that’s innovation,” Ekdahl told DeviceTalks Weekly podcast host Tom Salemi.
Surgical robots can help. Johnson & Johnson’s DePuy Synthes won FDA clearance in January 2021 for the Velys robotic-assisted orthopedic surgical system for use with the Attune total knee implant. DePuy Synthes joined other medical device companies that have entered the orthopedic surgical robot market in recent years to compete against Stryker and its Mako robots. Other recent entrants include Smith+Nephew’s Navio surgical system and Zimmer Biomet’s Rosa knee system.
The Velys system adapts to a surgeon’s workflow to give them the control needed to execute bony cuts efficiently and accurately. The table-mounted system is designed to easily integrate into any operating room. Its small footprint and digital planning capabilities allow the robotic-assisted system to move between operating rooms and patient care rooms.
The system is particularly appealing to surgeons in ambulatory centers, as the site of care in the U.S. has rapidly changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses, hospitals and care teams — along with surgeons — are experiencing burnout, and DePuy Synthes hopes that Velys will reduce some of the physical burdens.
“That is probably the biggest challenge that we’ll face, the overall operation of hospitals in the near term,” Ekdahl said. “I don’t think it’s going to last for a long period of time, because it will settle out. But that is going to have an impact.”The Velys robotic-assisted system is a part of DePuy Synthes’ broader Velys Digital Surgery platform. Velys Digital Surgery is a platform of connected technologies that uses data insights to plan, execute and perform surgical procedures. It allows for real-time decision-making, increased precision and consistency and more personalized care, according to the company.
Velys Digital and the robotic-assisted arm eliminate the need for CT imaging prior to total knee implant procedures. It is based on a computer-assisted workflow that uses arrays and bony landmarks to enable surgical planning in the operating room at the time of the procedure.
The efficiency and accuracy of cuts and movements using Velys are attractive to surgeons, but it’s the digital information capabilities in combination with the robotic-assisted system that make it unique, Ekdahl said.
“Surgeons, initially when they use the robot, they’re incredibly intrigued by the accuracy of the cuts,” he said. “They’re intrigued by the speed at which they can perform the procedure. What really intrigues them in the end is the ability to use the computer technology in combination with the robotic-assisted arm. It’s their ability to use those two things and bring them together for a more accurate knee and a more well-balanced knee.”
DePuy Synthes plans to bring more innovations to orthopedic robotic surgery now that elective procedures are returning to normal levels after being postponed due to the pandemic. The company wants to invest more in digital and enabling technologies to revolutionize robotic surgery using data that will in turn change implant designs in the future, Ekdahl said.
“If we can bring innovation to the table that reduces the physical burden of doing orthopedic surgery on the surgeon and the rest of the OR team to put the implant in, that’s extreme innovation,” he said.