So it should come as no surprise that J&J’s DePuy Synthes business has kept relatively mum about the robotically assisted knee surgery device it’s been developing. J&J entered the competitive surgical orthopedic robot world when DePuy Synthes bought Paris-based Orthotaxy and its orthopedic-surgery robot prototype in 2018.
DePuy Synthes gave attendees at the recent American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons conference a peek at the latest prototype of the Orthotaxy device. It’s is the size of a shoebox, attaches to an operating table and includes a saw, but does not do the sawing for the surgeon. Instead, the Orthotaxy platform will design the surgery plan and lock the saw into a plane, allowing the surgeon to do the cutting, according to Liam Rowley, VP of R&D for knees at DePuy.
“There are no blocks required. There’s no pinning required,” Rowley said. “We saw this as what the world actually needs. This is bed-mounted. It’s not a huge device that sits on the floor.”
The Orthotaxy robot will be much smaller and less expensive than surgical robots currently on the market, making what DePuy hopes will be a better candidate for incorporation into the increasingly popular stand-alone orthopedic surgery centers. Because the Orthotaxy robot will not require surgeons to use disposable instruments, it can save from $1,500 to $2,500 per procedure. No technician will be necessary in the OR, either, because Orthotaxy will be easy to use, according to Rowley.
“It’s smaller. It’s actually quicker,” he said. “There’s no CT (scan) required. In terms of world healthcare costs, this is not upping the cost that somebody has to bear to get standard of care. There’s a per-procedure reduction in costs.”
DePuy officials believe that this robot’s smaller profile, quicker procedures and lower per-procedure costs will help health systems to better justify their costs to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which have been pressuring hospitals to cut the costs of orthopedic procedures and follow-up care.
The Orthotaxy robot will likely debut in 2020 for knee surgery, followed by spine, hip and shoulder indications, according to SVPLeerink analysts Richard Newitter and Jaime Morgan, who follow DePuy.
“Importantly, this robotic arm will serve as just one component of a broader ecosystem of pre-operative, intra-operative, and post-operating surgical intelligence/digital surgery capabilities that will be interconnected,” the analysts said in an email.
Other J&J efforts around robots and surgery
Johnson & Johnson is developing robotics technology for other surgical applications, too. Just yesterday, the company closed on its $3.4 billion purchase of Auris Health and its FDA-cleared Monarch bronchoscopic-focused robotic platform.
J&J’s Ethicon and Google Verily’s Verb Surgical unit have been even less verbal about their as-yet-unnamed digital surgical platform collaboration. It will be more than just a robot, according to J&J spokeswoman Mary Richardson. (It also won’t be an orthopedic surgery system.)
“We continue to make great progress and have completed full pre-clinical procedures with multiple robots and dozens of instruments in key procedures,” Richardson said in an email to Medical Design & Outsourcing. “Our goal is to get these technologies to our customers and patients quickly but also to make sure that what we bring to market makes a meaningful difference to clinical care. We are focused on bringing the first digital surgery platform to market, instead of just a robot. To that end, we’ll continue to communicate about our approach to robotics in 2020 and beyond as we deliver on the promise of the digital surgery experience.”
Verb Surgical declined to comment beyond what Ethicon said.