VR Applications in Orthopaedic Surgery

Ankle osteoarthritis is a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the ankle joint. Traditional treatments like joint fusion can limit mobility. An alternative procedure called ankle distraction arthroplasty has been gaining some traction, but how well does it hold up in the long term? 

A recent study by Greenfield et al. (2019) investigated this very question. They conducted a survival analysis of ankle distraction arthroplasty for ankle osteoarthritis. Their findings suggest that this procedure may be a viable option for some patients. 

Key takeaways from the study: 

  • Ankle distraction arthroplasty showed promising results, with an 84% survival rate at 5 years. This is better than some previously reported outcomes. 
  • The study also identified factors that can influence the success of the procedure. Avascular necrosis of the talus (bone death) was associated with a lower survival rate. Additionally, sex may play a role, with the study suggesting potential gender differences in long-term outcomes. 

What this means for patients: 

Ankle distraction arthroplasty offers a potential option for preserving joint mobility in patients with ankle osteoarthritis. This study provides valuable data for surgeons and patients to consider when making treatment decisions. 

Important to note: 

  • This was a retrospective study, meaning researchers analyzed past data. More robust research designs are needed to confirm these findings. 
  • The study involved a relatively small group of patients. Larger studies are necessary to draw more definitive conclusions. 

Overall, this research suggests that ankle distraction arthroplasty may be a valuable tool for treating ankle osteoarthritis. However, more research is needed to solidify its place as a standard treatment option. 

ReferenceGreenfield, S., Matta, K. M., McCoy, T. H., Rozbruch, S. R., & Fragomen, A. (2019). Ankle distraction arthroplasty for ankle osteoarthritis: a survival analysis. Strategies in trauma and limb reconstruction, 14(2), 65. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7376580/#:~:text=In%20a%20significantly%20larger%20series,and%2037%25%20within%205%20years


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional to discuss your individual treatment options.

VR Applications in Orthopaedic Surgery
Image Credits: Digital Trends 

 “To ensure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life.” – William Londen

As the world becomes more digital, niches of technology begin to emerge. Once thought to be the stuff of video games, virtual reality is now emerging as a phenomenon that is enhancing both medical training, and medical practice. The ability to visualise is key to determining the best path forward when treating a patient. 

Virtual Reality (VR) synchronises 2D images in order to generate a 3D image that becomes a reality in the eyes of the viewer. The computer generated reality is viewed through the lenses of specially designed glasses, and the equipment that the glasses are connected to. Via the utilisation of VR in orthopaedics , various advantages have been gained by both the patient and the doctor. The technology is a great tool for orthopaedic decision making, and enables ease in diagnosis of the patient, as well as a well thought out treatment plan. 

VR creates an immersive environment for the orthopaedic specialist. Via digital display, the orthopaedic specialist can interact with the generated images and enable engagement of the doctor with the simulation of the particular case under study. Via a series of cameras, the head-mounted displays, auxiliary equipment and props, the full VR experience can be achieved. 

What is Image-Guided Orthopaedic Surgery?

With the ability of surgical specialists to see into the body, surgical procedures are now more successful than ever. The best way to determine the course of any process is to have a detailed plan that will outline how the desired outcome will be achieved. Imaging technology is utilized by orthopaedic surgeons either before or during surgery to determine a patient’s best custom treatment. 

One type of technology that enables surgical accuracy is the Image-Guided Operating System (IGOS). Introduced into the medical realm a few decades ago, the technology was predominantly based on the results of pre-operatively acquired computed tomography (CT) scans. The CT scan quality was such that internal patient conditions could clearly be discerned. Critical parameters that doctors favored included clear bone-tissue contrast. With a clear picture, a surgical plan could then be established.

Implementing new technologies that will enable surgeons to perform better procedures will require physical infrastructure changes and capital expenditure for implementation, strategic plans have to be put into place for hospitals to have these capabilities.

Advantages of Imaging Technology

With the utilisation of imaging technology, the advantages of VR are such that the interaction with the real and virtual worlds when diagnosing a patient, minimises the time of the treatment, via quickly identifying the best path forward. 

With the ability to see the problem much more clearly, orthopaedic specialists are actually able to learn while they work, and in some instances are able to generate new concepts or even devise a treatment method that may have never existed before. The utilisation of VR has resulted in minimised medical errors. 

Via the combination of digital techniques to provide pre-operative planning solutions orthopaedic quality of care is enhanced. As the cost of equipment is optimised, it is highly anticipated that VR applications will become more prevalent in medical training, as well as in general patient care. 

Article Reference:

Haleem A, Javaid M, Vaishya R, Khan IH. Virtual reality applications in orthopaedics. J Orthop Spine 2019;7:83-4

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Dr. Gordon Slater

Dr. Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions.

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Dr Gordon Slater is a highly-skilled surgeon specialising in foot and ankle conditions and sports injuries. Dr Slater is one of the first foot and ankle surgeons in Australia to adopt minimally invasive surgical techniques. He routinely uses MIS to treat a range of conditions, including bunions. MIS  has many advantages including shorter operating times, reduced post-operative pain, reduced risk of infection, minimal scarring and better cosmetic outcomes.

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