Orthopedic surgical expertise has certainly grown over the past decades with highly specialized treatments in greater demand. Altered lifestyle habits and a long-drawn pandemic that has put drastic changes to our daily routine has also contributed to greater physical strain on the body: People are experiencing more wide-ranging musculoskeletal issues than before.
in this article, we speak to Dr. Gurpal Singh, an orthopedic surgeon at Farrer Park Hospital, to find out more about common orthopedic conditions such as osteoarthritis and how MAKOplasty®, a smart robotic arm-assisted surgical technology, might benefit patients with worn-out joints.
“Typically, patients don’t seek out medical advice immediately for musculoskeletal conditions. Patients would choose to mitigate pain and nagging issues with medication and other alternatives,” Dr. Singh says, “Hence, most of the time, patients seek out orthopedic specialist care when the pain can no longer be tolerated.”
“When it comes to orthopedic problems, you would not immediately seek a specialist nor a surgical solution first because you would want to deal with it at a primary care level. But this may not be the best decision. When medication, injections or Traditional Chinese Medicine options fail to mitigate that nagging pain and discomfort, it might be that the problem is aggravated by now,” says Dr. Singh.
This may also explain why orthopedic surgeons have increasingly noticed that more advanced treatment is needed for optimal patient care.
Seeking orthopedic advice from a specialist does not need to be a last resort option, nor should it be reserved for those above the age of 60. According to Dr. Singh, one apparent reason for joint paint is the individual predisposition to musculoskeletal disorders.
“Your musculoskeletal system is like a thumbprint. Its integrity depends on how you move your body on a regular basis. The pain won’t always go away with just a couple of days or weeks of rest. Often, medication only delays the inevitable too, let alone supplementary therapies, once it is present in an advanced stage. For instance, in the setting of a severely worn-out joint, the pain is going to come back the moment you resume your normal activities” Dr. Singh says.
Orthopedic specialists like Dr. Singh also see an increasing number of younger patients with joint pain. According to him, overworking your body for that personal best might just leave you being less than happy with the prize.
“The types of problems that orthopedic specialists see in younger patients can be related to their bodies wearing out too quickly – sometimes as a consequence of an old injury but often due to work or excessive recreational activities that simply put too much strain on the body ” he added.
For older patients, the issue is more about ensuring physical independency and an active lifestyle. In end-stage osteoarthritis, joint replacement surgery is the treatment of choice. During that surgery, damaged parts of the joints are removed and replaced by implant components making up the new artificial joint.
“It is about ensuring a prolonged lifespan of a joint replacement and that you are able to once again have a good range of movement and regain mobility,” Dr. Singh explained.
This is where orthopedic specialists and medical technologists figured improvements to current practice are needed to meet these expectations.
With MAKOplasty®, Dr. Singh says that the smart robot-assisted technology enhances surgical precision - a crucial factor especially when a surgeon is performing joint replacement surgery.
“Adding new technology resets your boundaries on how you see things before and during surgery. I can even use a personalized virtual 3D model of the joint based on the patient’s CT scan. Using that model, I customize the surgical plan according to the patient’s needs. I no longer depend on the naked eye, but I can look at the joint in a three-dimensional way and deduct all the information necessary for a successful surgery,” he said.
Controlled by the surgeon, robotic arm-assisted surgery in orthopedics like Makoplasty, Dr. Singh says, has made a marked difference in locating the damaged area within the joint that is to be resurfaced or smoothened, while preserving the surrounding healthy bone and ligaments. This is particularly beneficial when only one or two compartments of the knee are replaced (partial knee replacement). Thanks to today’s technology, adjustments can be made instantly during surgery to optimize implant position and to restore good range of motion of the joint after surgery.
There are also other important advantages.
“Because of the superior accuracy in implant placement, the joint replacement may last longer. Additionally, the surgical procedure demands smaller skin incisions with subsequently smaller scars, less blood loss and the use of less aggressive instruments and may, therefore, decrease hospital stay and potentially speeds up recovery.” Clinical expertise and surgical skills married with the increased technical advancements pave the way for even fewer complications and greater patient satisfaction in orthopedic surgery.