Robot-assisted surgery is something residents of mid-sized communities rarely get to experience in the outpatient setting. Usually, they have to travel to larger urban areas to find hospitals that offer the treatment, but not anymore – at least not in Thurston County. Olympia Orthopaedic Associates (OOA) recently acquired a MAKO robot and began offering robot-assisted partial knee, total knee, and hip replacements in September at their Surgical Center in West Olympia.
“There are only one or two other Ambulatory Surgery Center in the state that has this technology, at least to my knowledge,” says Dr. Darrin Trask, a hip and knee replacement specialist at OOA. “It’s nice to be able to bring this option to our outpatient joint replacement clients at the Surgery Center.”
OOA surgeons have been training on the robot, which will be used for a variety of procedures. “It’s a great option for our patients,” says Dr. L. Anthony Agtarap. “We all believe it has clinical benefit. You’re going to see 40 to 50 percent of the physicians who are actively doing joint replacements interested in using this technology.” Dr. Agtarap specializes in knee replacement and sports medicine, knee injuries, and ACL and meniscal injuries.
The robot offers many advantages to both surgeons and patients starting with a detailed CT scan of the patient’s anatomy before surgery. “We can create a very personalized plan for each individual patient using the data we receive from the robot,” says Trask. “We see not only what the bony anatomy is doing, but the laxity of their soft tissues and any previous deformities patients have had. It gives us great accuracy when it comes to putting the joint replacement components exactly where we plan for them to go.”
Dr. Milan Moore appreciates the proactive aspect the robot brings to procedures. Moore specializes in hip, joining replacement, and knee conditions and procedures. “This allows us to do most of our preoperative planning prior to surgery rather than making adjustments during the surgical procedure,” he notes. “That’s particularly useful for individuals with unusual anatomy, prior fractures or congenital deformities.”
The robot will shut itself off if the surgeon attempts to make any movements that aren’t predetermined by the software, creating a higher level of safety as well as accuracy. That means better outcomes for patients, says Dr. Agtarap.
Dr. Trask is one of OOA’s newer surgeons, but he has had perhaps the most experience working with robotic-assisted Total Joint Surgery. His residency and later fellowship included extensive training with robots. After he joined OOA, Capital Medical Center (CMC) allowed him operating privileges with the MAKO robot they purchased in 2019. Trask has been a driving force behind getting the robotics program up and running at OOA’s Surgery Center.
Offering the surgery as an outpatient procedure is significant for the community, according to Dr. William Peterson. “It offers tremendous advantages to patients in terms of patterns of recovery,” he says. “To be able to provide this in an Ambulatory Surgery Center setting in the South Sound is unique. Otherwise, get a MAKO robot right now, you have to either go up north, to Seattle or south, to Vancouver.”
Word is spreading throughout the region and patients are beginning to get curious. Dr. Trask currently receives one or two questions a week related to the robot. “That’s exciting,” he says. “As a new provider, to have somebody seeking me out because I’m offering that technology is a pretty special thing.”
Dr. Moore sees it as a natural fit for the practice. “Robotic technology is as revolutionary in the orthopedic arena as it is in other technical fields,” he says. “Any true professional is always looking for a better tool that will allow us to better hone our skills and provide more precise and more predictable surgical results.”
At the same time, it’s important to balance innovation with making sure that new tools are more than just passing trends. “We didn’t jump on the bandwagon right away, but once it became clear that this is a valid technology, we are embracing it and moving forward,” says Peterson. “We’ve been able to take advantage of this opportunity and keep innovating. That’s one of the great things about this team.”
Learn more at the Olympia Orthopaedics Associates website or by calling 360-570-3460.