Robotic arm-assisted surgery debuts at NOCH

Krystle Wagner • May 18, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Patients and employees at North Ottawa Community Hospital were learning Thursday about new technology that will be used for partial knee, total knee and total hip replacements.

Throughout the day, they tested the new Mako technology at the Grand Haven hospital. With it, orthopaedic surgeons can get an exact alignment of a patient’s knee or hip, and use the model on a computer to develop the best way to put in the implant, said Dr. Dirk Bakker of the Orthopaedic Associates of Muskegon based in Grand Haven.

While the surgeons do the cutting, the robotic arm is programmed to match the patient’s anatomy to guide the surgeons to where the cuts need to be made, Bakker explained.

The technology is aimed at increasing accuracy, providing patients with better outcomes, and helping extend the life of the hip or knee implant. Bakker said it’s the same surgery they’ve always done, but the robotic arm is an additional tool used before and during surgery to “make the implant as perfect as they can be.”

Mako is a product of Stryker of Kalamazoo.

Hospital spokeswoman Jen VanSkiver noted that the Orthopaedic Associates of Muskegon surgeons based in Grand Haven have been certified and trained in the three techniques (partial knee, total knee and total hip). She said they watched and researched the technology and outcomes to ensure they made a good investment for the community.

Candidates for the joint replacement surgeries include patients who suffer from joint pain that stems from degeneration caused by osteoarthritis.

Grand Haven resident Carrie Abbott was on-hand Thursday to share her personal experience with the robotic arm-assisted surgery. Abbott, 40, was born with a severe hip deformity that caused arthritis to set in, which she said caused “debilitating pain.” 

About three years ago, Abbott had her left hip replaced with traditional surgery. On April 20, she had her right hip replaced with the Mako technology at NOCH.

The mother of four was discharged eight hours after the surgery, and she was hiking and searching for morel mushrooms within four days. She walked with her class during Muskegon Community College’s commencement ceremony two weeks post-surgery.


After her first hip replacement, Abbott said she used a walker for the first few weeks post-surgery, and the healing time was longer and she was in pain. She said the Mako surgery has been “life-changing” and she’s no longer in pain.

“I feel like I’ve been given my life back,” she said.

Abbott said she looks forward to working as a registered nurse. She also will be able to walk on the beach this summer without pain, which she said was previously a chore.

“There’s no limitation on what I can do now,” she said.

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