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Orthopedic Surgical Robots Continue to Show Impressive Potential

In the last decade, orthopedic surgical robots have gained increasing popularity, not limited only to the United States. Countries including Spain, Russia, Sweden, South Africa, and Saudi Arabia are venturing into the medical robotic systems market, but the United States is expected to lead in terms of revenue generation. By the end of 2029, the global orthopedic surgical robots market will be worth more than $4.1 billion. 

Predictions for the way orthopedic surgical robots will alter existing healthcare include an increasing variety of robots and a larger number of procedures and situations in which robotics will be useful. Technological advancements in this world continue as does the demand for funding and desire for innovative movement. 

Why Now?

In the world of healthcare, and largely any industry where technology plays a major role, the need for automation is on the rise. Orthopedic surgical robots accomplish the need for automation while providing a series of arguably more important advantages. The use of orthopedic surgical robots is linked to decreased blood loss, lower risk of infection, and less postoperative pain. 

For years, Intuitive Surgical has largely controlled the market for orthopedic surgical robots. However, in the last year, additional companies have produced their own robots. In January 2019, leading medical device manufacturer Zimmer Biomet received US FDA 510 (k) clearance for their “ROSA Knee System” to enable knee replacement procedures. A few months later in March, Stryker launched their knee replacement robotic arm system: “MAKO Total Knee.” 

In terms of clinical application, robots can be used for a variety of upper extremities like hands, elbows, wrists, and shoulders. On the opposite end, lower extremity procedures on feet, ankles, knees, and hips are beginning to utilize robots. End users for robotics are not limited to hospitals. In fact, a wide variety of clinics and surgical centers have recently picked up orthopedic robots to help transform the patient experience and recovery. 

  1. The Mesquite, Texas-based NTTC Surgery Center leverages an orthopedic robot to complete a total knee replacement. The robot uses scans of the patient’s knee to create a virtual model which the surgeon employs during surgery. In addition, the robot helps the surgeon cut smaller incisions, thus enabling faster recovery. 
  2. In Jackson, Mississippi, a ROSA surgical robot was heavily utilized to complete a left total knee replacement. 
  3. A Mako robotic arm at Heartland Orthopedic Specialists in Alexandria, Minnesota, helps orthopedic specialists perform joint replacements through plans that tailor surgery to fit specific patient anatomy. 

Despite the obvious advantages to orthopedic surgical robots, there are some obstacles that are yet to be fully vetted. Additional studies are necessary to determine the cost-effectiveness of these robots as well as efficiency inside existing hospital systems. Furthermore, such an abrupt technological addition to hospitals will warrant structured training to ensure patient safety, efficient use of the robots, and an environment with continued opportunities. Regardless, the use of surgical robots shows no signs of slowing down. Estimates for market growth in surgical robotics between the years 2014 to 2019 is 13% year-over-year.

Surgical robots may very well be the future of healthcare. The inclusion of surgical robots in an operating room heightens the visualization of the operating field and, as a result, shortens recovery time and hospital stays. Similarly, automation empowers surgeons with improved precision and enhanced judgement. During the next decade, the growth of orthopedic surgical robots will surely continue to trend upwards. An uptick in competitors will follow an increase in demand for these robots, further driving innovation and healthy competition.