New Zealand carries out our first robot-assisted knee surgery

The country's first robot-assisted knee surgery has been carried out at Auckland's North Shore Hospital.

More than 7000 knee replacement operations are carried out in New Zealand each year, and new technology is about to make them even better.

The Mako Unicompartmental Knee Replacement (UKR) system is considered a major game changer - enabling significant numbers of patients who would have had total knee replacements to have partial knee replacements instead with an improvement in patient outcomes.

It's the cutting edge of surgery. The robot arm helps Waitemata DHB Orthopaedics Clinical Director Matthew Walker to carry out precision work.

"It's a New Zealand first. We've never done robotic knee-joint replacement here in New Zealand so we're very excited that it's finally arrived," says Mr Walker.

The pre-operative CT scan is matched to the anatomy of the patient, and the technology ensures accurate cutting.

There is a green area for a guide for the surgeon to follow on screen. The virtual tool also works out perfect placement of the implant, which is difficult to achieve consistently without robotic assistance.

The Mako UKR system aims to replace just one part of the damaged knee. The implant is therefore smaller and the surgery less invasive.

"It's very exciting to be able to push the boundaries of technology and this innovation is certainly something that will help patients," Mr Walker says.

That means shorter stays in hospital, less pain and faster recovery.

Adam Squire was the country's first patient to undergo the robot-assisted partial knee replacement six weeks ago.

He walked out of hospital the very next day.

"Within a week I was down the local park doing three to five km around the park," he says.

Within two weeks he was back to work.

"Yeah, great, still in pain, still limping, obviously healing pain but the knee doesn't feel like it's going to collapse, I can get up and down the stairs, it feels stronger than it's ever felt," he says.

It's the first of an estimated 60 surgeries per year that will be carried out as part of a study designed to compare results with current practice.

In the future North Shore Hospital will look at using the robot for other knee operations and possibly hip replacements too.

The Mako UKR system was made possible through the efforts of Waitemata DHB's fundraising arm, the Well Foundation.