GRAND RAPIDS — Spectrum Health’s Center for Joint Replacement at Blodgett Hospital has become one of the first hospitals in Michigan to offer intelligent orthopaedic knee replacement surgery using a new technology. It harnesses the latest innovations in sensors, microelectronics and wireless communications to improve results and reduce the cost of treating musculoskeletal disease.

A surgeon is using the first sensor-assisted orthopaedic instrument, the OrthoSensor Knee Balancer. The device properly quantifies and verifies the position and balance of a knee implant during total knee replacement surgery.

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Proper balance of the soft tissues, such as ligaments, tendons and muscles, is critical for a knee implant to function correctly. Improper soft tissue balance and alignment has been demonstrated to be the cause of up to 36 percent of early implant revision procedures.

Knee replacements performed with this new intelligent orthopaedic device may reduce patients’ risk of premature implant failure. In addition, it could potentially reduce the number of knee surgery revisions and, thereby, reduce the costs associated with these revision surgeries.

Gregory Golladay, M.D., of Orthopaedic Associates of Michigan and a Spectrum Health orthopaedic surgeon, is leading the use of this new technology in West Michigan.

“If soft tissues are too tight, the knee cannot regain its full range of motion; if too loose, the joint may become unstable; if loaded excessively on one area, an implant will fail prematurely,” said Golladay. “By using this system to optimize the placement of knee implants, we are providing our patients a good opportunity for successful long-term outcomes.”

The intelligent, single-use device, made by OrthoSensor Inc., replaces the standard tibial trial spacer block typically used during knee replacement surgery to fit a knee implant. The surgeon inserts the OrthoSensor Knee Balancer between the femoral and tibial components of the knee implant to customize their placement.

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The instrument is embedded with sensors that quantify joint balance during the operation so the surgeon can make adjustments to the soft tissues and optimize implant placement. Once the implant position is finalized, the intelligent instrument is removed and replaced with a permanent implant component.

Until now, surgeons’ decisions about these soft tissue functions have varied based on individual judgment, experience and skills, due to the lack of quantifiable data. By contrast, the OrthoSensor wirelessly transmits key information to a graphic display, enabling surgeons to visualize and quantify joint balance and load during knee replacement procedures. With this evidence, surgeons can make informed adjustments to the soft tissues to optimize implant placement.

“This intelligent device advances our decision-making about crucial soft tissue adjustments from a feel-based art, to a quantifiable science,” said Golladay.  “Orthopaedic surgeons now have a way to measure and verify during surgery that a knee implant is properly positioned.”

The device is FDA approved and Golladay has worked with the company in developing this technology. He is participating in a national, multi-center research study to further quantify the benefits of this technology.

The Spectrum Health Center for Joint Replacement ranks first in West Michigan, second in the state and fourth in the nation for the number of joint replacement procedures performed each year. It is also the only program in West Michigan to hold Disease Specific Care Certification for joint replacement surgery from The Joint Commission for meeting or exceeding the most rigorous national standards for quality, safety and clinical outcomes.

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Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan offering a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, which is comprised of nine hospitals including Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, a state of the art children’s hospital that opened in January 2011, and 190 service sites; the Spectrum Health Medical Group and West Michigan Heart, physician groups totaling more than 700 providers; and Priority Health, a health plan with 600,000 members. Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer with more than 18,000 employees. The organization provided $176.5 million in community benefit during its 2011 fiscal year.