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Life-changing robotic surgery improves Veteran outcomes

MAKO surgery at VA Houston
Dr. David Green (right back) is holding the reamer that is attached to the robotic arm. Also pictured are Dr. Hristo Piponov, Joint Fellow (right front); Dr. Lucas Harvey, Chief Resident (left back); and Tyler Adams, visiting medical student from LSU (left front).

New robotic technology at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston will ensure better long-term outcomes for Veterans undergoing total hip replacement surgery.

This week, David M. Green, M.D., M.S. and a team of orthopedic surgeons at the Houston VA, performed the VA’s first total hip replacement using Mako robotic-assisted 3D technology.   

The patient, 38 year old Army Veteran James Hood, is recovering nicely and says the surgery has already been life-changing.  

“I have been in constant pain and only able to move with a walker or a wheelchair for quite some time,” he said.  “Since I had the surgery this week, I have already been to physical therapy twice and feel no pain at all.  I’m thrilled.”

Hood, who lives in Deer Park, TX, is looking forward to going home soon and being reunited with his wife and three children.  He says he gets all his health care from the VA and has been nothing but satisfied. 

“My doctors at the VA have fought alongside me every step of the way to help me get better,” he said.  “This new technology is really cutting-edge and I feel so lucky to have gotten it at the VA.  My goal is to be up and around without a walker or a wheelchair in a few short weeks.”

Musculoskeletal disorders like osteoarthritis are very common in the Veteran population.  When osteoarthritis becomes severe, normal activities like walking, going up stairs or even sitting can become extremely painful. Total hip replacement surgeries can offer Veterans a solution to this pain and improve their quality of life.  

According to Green, the new Mako technology begins with a CT scan of the Veteran’s hip joint, taken in order to generate a 3D virtual model of their unique anatomy. The 3D model helps the surgeon see things that can’t been seen with an x-ray alone. This additional information will help Houston VA doctors determine the optimal size, placement and positioning of the hip implant.  Throughout the procedure, the technology provides real-time data to the surgeon; allowing doctors to continuously assess the movement and tension of the new joint and adjust accordingly.

“This new technology is very powerful; it allows us to perform these surgeries with precise accuracy, creating a super snug fit of the perfectly sized implant,” Green said.  “This should allow for better long-term outcomes with fewer complications for our Veterans and help them along their journey to make a full recovery. They deserve nothing but the best, and we are proud to give it to them.”

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