Press Releases 

Back on Track: Mary Jo's Story of Robotic Joint Replacement
Date: 6/18/2015
Makoplasty only found locally at RWJ Hamilton

Mary Jo’s pursuit of fitness and healthy lifestyle is apparent the moment you meet her. From the Fitbit on her wrist, to the VEGAN sticker on her car, to the sneakers on her feet, you can tell it would take a major obstacle to keep the Hamilton resident from her healthy pursuits. 

Hip pain became that obstacle for Mary Jo after a stress fracture and arthritis made simply walking a challenge for this avid runner. 

“It got to the point where I was holding onto chairs just to get around, and I was using a cane,” explains Mary Jo. “That is not me.”

That’s when Mary Jo decided to visit board certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon, John Schnell, MD, to find some relief from her pain.

After exhausting conservative treatment options, like medication and injections, Mary Jo discussed the option of hip replacement surgery with Dr. Schnell.

“I didn’t take much convincing. I needed to get moving again,” she says.

Getting Hip to New Technology
Dr. Schnell introduced Mary Jo to new robotic technology now available at RWJ Hamilton: MAKOplasty® robotic arm-assisted hip replacement surgery.

While precision is essential in any surgery, joint precision is especially critical as even the slightest misalignment can impact an individual’s movement and strength throughout recovery and beyond. 

“Using the robotic arm allows for more accuracy,” explains Dr. Schnell. 

But how? 

Based on a pre-operative CT scan, the surgeon uses the robotic arm system to plan implant positioning using patient-specific anatomic information prior to surgery. Then, during the procedure, the robotic arm guides the surgeon in preparing the socket in the pelvis and positioning the implant. 

Throughout the surgery, the surgeon is provided real-time information and images which help him to achieve accurate implant placement, even when there is a change to the original measurements. 

“Your surgeon is fully in control of the surgery. The robot is an extension of the arm,” explains Dr. Schnell. “I recently changed the size of the cup and the position of the cup while in surgery to provide a better fit for the patient. This technology allows the surgeon to do that while continuing to provide the precision.”

That precision helps the surgeon to preserve healthy tissue and bone, resulting in better outcomes and shorter recovery times.

Robotic arm assisted joint replacement is available for partial knee replacement and total hip replacement. Dr. Schnell notes, however, that while nearly all patients requiring partial knee replacement can opt for the robotic arm assisted surgery, those needing hip replacement need to meet certain criteria. 

A New Day
After the surgery, Mary Jo felt the difference immediately. 

“Dr. Schnell explained surgical pain is different than the pain I was already experiencing,” she said. “It was like the minute the new joint was in, the pain was gone.”

Mary Jo’s healthy lifestyle made a difference for her in the recovery process. Dr. Schnell suggested she remain as active as she could leading up to the surgery to prevent muscular atrophy, or loss of muscle mass.

“Atrophy often occurs when a person has lived with a non-functioning joint for a length of time,” explains Dr. Schnell. “If you are flexible and your strength and muscle tone is good, you will probably have an easier, quicker recovery than someone whose muscle is atrophied.”

With her new hip in place, Mary Jo was eager to get back on her feet. 

“My son calls me an overachiever, but I was ready to go as soon as I could,” she says. 

“The PTs got me up right after surgery to get me moving. A couple days later I was walking. A week later I was going up and down the steps.”

Now, Mary Jo is back to playing and dancing with her grandchildren. And she’s back to her fitness regimen.

“I’m power walking four miles a day. I’m not back to running but I am getting in a great workout every day and I feel like myself again,” she says.