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Robotic tech aids knee replacements at CRMC

The VELYS Robotic-Assisted Solution is robotic technology that allows surgeons to perform knee replacements using data tailored to each patient’s specific anatomy.

Five people in blue surgical gowns gather around an operating table, where a person's leg is visible. Also pictured is a robotic arm that assists in knee replacement surgery.
The orthopedic surgeon team at Crosby Regional Medical Center simulates how a knee replacement surgery works with the new VELYS Robotic-Assisted Solution technology Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. Pictured, from left: Randy Hanson, Kyle Bartels, Dr. Erik Severson, Tom Lewandowski and Matthew Fleming.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

CROSBY — Dr. Erik Severson wants to limit the pain his patients feel after knee replacement surgery.

And thanks to new robotic technology, that goal may be within reach.

The VELYS Robotic-Assisted Solution is robotic technology that allows surgeons to perform knee replacements using data tailored to each patient’s specific anatomy.

“I would say it’s a marriage of old technology with new technology and allows a surgeon to still be a surgeon and doesn’t slow down the case, which is really important when you’re trying to prevent things like infection,” said Severson, an orthopedic surgeon at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby.

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Put into use at CRMC in September, the new technology does not require knee replacement patients to undergo a CT scan or any of the other complex tests typically needed before the procedure, thus speeding up the process and knocking down the cost.

An infrared camera and optical tracker in the robotic system help the surgeon gather necessary data about a patient’s anatomy to achieve a higher level of precision than normally possible.

A doctor demonstrates a piece of robotic equipment that assists in knee replacements.
Dr. Erik Severson, an orthopedic surgeon at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby, demonstrates how the VELYS Robotic-Assisted Solution technology works Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. The new technology allows for more precise knee replacement procedures.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“I put small pins into the femoral bone and the tibial bone, and then we put little trackers on them — or arrays,” Severson said. “So there’s a satellite station and a base station in the room, and there’s constant communication between the stations and the arrays, which will allow the robotic arm to move in conjunction with that. And those arrays not only allow the robotic arm to do its job, but it allows us to actually register the patient’s alignment, which is unique to everybody.”

Severson hopes this extra precision means earlier range of motion for patients and less postoperative pain. Even if surgery went well and a patient completed their physical therapy perfectly, some still experience pain in their new knee a year down the road. In Severson’s personal experience, about 6-7% of patients still experience pain, which he believes could come from soft tissue tension or asymmetry around the knee. With the robotic technology, he hopes to drop that number to less than 1%.

“Knee replacement is just correcting a bony problem. Their soft tissue can still hurt,” Severson said. “The idea behind this new technology is that we’re hoping that we’re able to reliably achieve soft tissue balance around that knee, which then should translate into better outcomes.”

Severson said he joins the ranks of orthopedic surgeons in St. Cloud and at Mayo Clinic using the new technology in Minnesota.

“CRMC has always been at the forefront of technology and early adoption,” he said. “... I think it’s incredibly exciting. I really like being at the forefront of it because I like collecting the data. And I like knowing how well it’s going to impact our orthopedic population.”

Severson believes the technology will be a springboard to make surgeons’ jobs much more reliably precise and to develop new implants for knee replacements. In order to achieve the same high-quality results as in hip replacement, he said the implants need to be better, and the new robotic technology is a step toward that development.

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“I think this is the beginning of a super exciting warp speed two years, three years that's going to happen where we evolve and we bring our new technology back into the really great A-plus outcome,” Severson said.

For more information on the VELYS Robotic-Assisted Solution for total knee replacement, visit cuyunamed.org/patient-care/orthopaedics .

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Related Topics: HEALTHTECHNOLOGY
Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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