Computational Modeling for Better Knee Implant Alignment

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Newswise — An ambitious doctoral student from Texas A&M University has joined forces with a cutting-edge surgical navigation and robotics company to conduct groundbreaking research in motion capture. This research has the potential to significantly enhance implant alignment during knee replacement surgeries.

Meet Aaron Henry, a dedicated fourth-year Ph.D. student enrolled in the Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Engineering program at the esteemed Department of Multidisciplinary Engineering. His collaboration was with none other than Caira Surgical, a leading company specializing in surgical navigation and robotic orthopedic surgery. Caira Surgical is renowned for its focus on streamlining workflows and creating advanced technological systems that aid in joint replacement procedures.

In this collaboration, Aaron Henry's research revolved around the validation of Caira's exclusive computational knee model. This proprietary model holds the promise of enabling surgeons to achieve more precise implant positioning during knee replacement surgeries, thereby potentially improving patient outcomes.

The significance of this research cannot be overstated, considering that in the United States alone, over 1 million total knee replacements, or TKRs, were performed in 2020. A concerning statistic reveals that approximately twenty percent of patients expressed dissatisfaction with the outcomes of their surgeries. These dissatisfactions ranged from issues related to poor implant alignment to biomechanical problems.

Aaron Henry's work with Caira Surgical brings hope for a future where knee replacement surgeries can be performed with greater accuracy and effectiveness, ultimately benefiting patients and contributing to the advancement of medical technology in the field of orthopedics.

In the past, surgeons relied on their diagnosis of ligament strain to estimate the correct implant location during preoperative planning sessions. Unfortunately, this method proved insufficient as some patients encountered issues that necessitated further surgeries for revisions.

However, a revolutionary shift has occurred, where the positioning of implants is no longer solely dependent on the surgeon's experience or visual judgment. Thanks to the advancements in computational modeling, doctors now have a powerful tool at their disposal. They can thoroughly assess the implant's orientation for optimal accuracy and identify potential misalignments before the final placement.

With the aid of simulations, doctors can also gain insights into how the implant will interact with the patient's anatomy. This allows them to predict post-surgery knee motion and anticipate any significant changes in mobility that may arise.

To validate the effectiveness of this modeling approach, the researchers began by creating a physical 3D-printed knee model. Aaron Henry then conducted motion capture experiments comparing the computational model's predictions to the actual performance of the physical model in the real world. The results were promising, as the computational model reasonably matched the behavior of the physical model.

This innovative use of computational modeling marks a significant advancement in knee replacement surgeries, empowering surgeons to make more informed decisions and potentially reducing the need for additional surgeries due to implant-related issues.

Aaron Henry had the honor of presenting his research paper titled "Experimental Validation of a Computational Knee Model of TKR Implant Placement" at this year's Design of Medical Devices Conferences held at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis from April 17-19.

The noteworthy research findings were subsequently published in the American Society of Mechanical Engineering (ASME) Digital Collection, adding to the body of knowledge in the field.

Among the talented advisors guiding Aaron's research is Dr. Andrew Robbins, a research assistant professor associated with both the School of Engineering Medicine and the Department of Multidisciplinary Engineering at Texas A&M University. Dr. Robbins expressed his enthusiasm for the work conducted in collaboration with Caira, a sentiment shared by the team, acknowledging the potential impact it could have on a significant number of Americans in need of joint replacements. The progress made by Aaron in his research lays a solid foundation for substantial advancements in clinical practice in the near future.

In addition to Robbins, two members of Caira Surgical worked with Henry on the paper: Gordon Goodchild, vice president of research and development, and Jon Greenwald, co-founder and CEO. Other contributors include Dr. Morteza Meftah, an orthopedic surgeon at New York University Langone Health, and Dr. Michael Moreno, Henry's second advisor and associate professor in the J. Mike Walker ’66 Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M.

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