What is Robotic Knee Replacement?

Recent advances in technology are changing the way many orthopaedic surgeons – including Dr David Slattery – are conducting common procedures. Key amongst these is the rise in the use of robotic knee replacement as an option for patients suffering from various forms of arthritis as well as other conditions. But what is it, and is it right for your condition? 

In this blog, we take a look at what sets robotic knee replacement apart from traditional methods, helping you determine whether it’s something worth discussing with your medical professional. 

Greater precision & customisability 

Robotic knee surgery involves the usage of computer-controlled tools to assist in the selection/creation of the prosthesis and the cutting required to fit the prosthesis. The procedure may vary based on the specific system selected by your orthopaedic surgeon, but broadly robotic knee surgery takes place in three stages:

  1. Modelling – Your surgeon will make a 3D scan of the knee, allowing them to select a prosthesis that more precisely fits your anatomy. This step is either done preoperatively in conjunction with a CT scan or intraoperatively by direct surface mapping. As part of this step, the range of motion and stability of the joint will be simulated, helping to ensure a better match between patient and prosthesis. 
  2. Surgery – During the surgery itself, the surgeon uses the robotic system to assist in cutting into the bone and positioning the implant. Real-time imaging ensures that small – but crucial – revision cuts can be made intraoperatively to ensure the best possible fit. Throughout the process, surgical cuts are compared to the chosen simulation, minimising the risk of surgical error. 
  3. Testing – After components have been placed, the robotic system assists the surgeon in checking the range of movement and stability against the simulation, letting the surgeon know immediately if revision is required. 

A specialist orthopaedic surgeon with experience in robotic surgery

Dr David Slattery is proud to offer patients the ability to work with an orthopaedic surgeon trained in robotic knee replacement. Having successfully performed hundreds of traditional knee replacements, Dr Slattery is excited about the increased accuracy and customisation of treatment offered by robotic methodologies, believing they could result in better patient outcomes under the right circumstances. 

With nearly over aa decade of practice in Orthopaedic Surgeryas an orthopaedic specialist, Dr Slattery is ready to answer any questions you may have about knee replacement – including your suitability for robotic surgery. If you’d like to discuss your health with Dr Slattery, please contact our offices. Dr Slattery is available for consultations across Melbourne – Glenferrie Private Hospital, The Avenue Hospital, Heidelberg, and Brighton and the Royal Children’s Hospital – as well as remotely via telehealth services. Should you wish to book an appointment, please contact our Glenferrie Private Hospital rooms on 03 9819 6934. 


Is robotic knee replacement better?

Robotic knee replacement offers both advantages and disadvantages over traditional surgery. Robot-assisted surgery offers higher precision and more accuracy than conventional methods of total knee replacement and allows better intra-operative fine tuning of the knee replacement. Note that as this is new technology, this accuracy has not been proven to make a difference in the long-term survival of the implant, but it is likely to in the future as we obtain more longitudinal data on robotic knee replacement

This methodology does have its downsides, however, as the high costs of equipment (typically exceeding $1 million for the hospital) and specialised training required to use the technology limits its deployment. 

Dr Slattery will recommend the most appropriate method of knee replacement for your circumstances. 

Does Medicare cover knee replacement?

Yes. Within the public system, Medicare fully covers the cost of knee replacement but does not cover robotic knee replacement. Medicare will cover the cost of the hospital admission and the prosthesis/implants as well as surgeon, anaesthetist, assistant costs. In the public sector, typical waiting times for a joint replacement are between 12 and 18 months.  

In the private sector, Medicare can still pay some of the costs towards a knee replacement, but there are significant out of pocket costs, between $15,000 and $20,000 if you do not have private health insurance.

How much can I walk after knee replacement?

While initially pain will limit the amount of walking you are capable of doing in the post-operative period, most patients can start walking after knee replacement surgery immediately, albeit assisted by crutches for the first few weeks. 

Over time, as muscle strength improves and pain decreases, the amount of walking you can do increases. By six weeks you should be transitioning off crutches.  Once the rehabilitation is complete you should be able to walk as much as you like on your knee, without discomfort or pain.  

Are double knee replacements recommended?

Double knee replacements in medically well patients can be done, but there are higher risks of DVT and an increased need for blood transfusion and potentially longer hospital admission (typically between five and seven days) compared to single sided knee replacement.  

If double knee replacements are contemplated, then it is essential that patients are assessed thoroughly preoperatively by a physician to ensure that they are as medically fit as possible prior to knee replacement surgery. Dr Slattery will be able to provide advice on your suitability for a double knee replacement.