As osteoarthritis progresses, the knee becomes more misaligned, stiff, and deformed. Restoring alignment is critical for the long-term success of a knee replacement. Precise positioning of the implants is an important element of the durable knee replacement.
Most knee replacements done today are done using alignment jigs and cutting blocks. These are relatively simple devices that rely on the surgeon’s ability to see and feel when the knee is properly aligned and balanced. Research has demonstrated that experienced surgeons using these traditional methods have limited success in properly balancing and aligning knee replacements.
Computer navigation is a recent advancement in joint replacement surgery. Light-emitting diodes (Figure 1) are attached to the leg. These devices communicate directly with a camera attached to a computer (Figure 2) and allow the surgeon to create a digital reproduction of the entire surgery (Figure 3).
Computer navigation provides real-time 3-D imaging and guides the surgeon’s cuts during knee replacement. Component positions, range of motion, ligament tensioning, and overall limb alignment are accurately and clearly viewed at every step during the operation. Errors in technique that would otherwise go unnoticed are quickly identified and corrected. Computer navigation during knee replacement also helps to minimize the amount of surgical dissection and to ensure proper positioning of the implants.