Tactile Pressure Sensing Keeps Knee Implants in Line

Achieving proper implant placement and alignment during knee-replacement surgery is a feat that literally requires a delicate balancing act by orthopaedic surgeons. By spurring the development of emerging knee-balancing technologies, however, capacitive tactile sensors hold the potential to improve postoperative function and pain relief by supplying quantifiable pressure data.

Chronic pain, complications, and even implant failure following traditional knee arthroplasty is frequently attributed to a surgeon’s technique rather than a defective medical device or specific brand. And even the most-skilled orthopaedic surgeons can struggle with aligning the knee implant and balancing knee ligaments.

The challenge for orthopaedic surgeons lies in the subjective nature of total knee-replacement surgery. Using relatively simple devices such as alignment rods and cutting blocks, surgeons must rely primarily on their senses of sight and touch to confirm that the knee implant is correctly aligned and balanced.

Consequently, total knee replacement surgery is vulnerable to human error. Misalignment or poor positioning of the artificial knee can ultimately result in a detrimental imbalance of pressure distribution that may cause one side to wear faster than the other. In turn, such complications can compromise implant function and longevity as well as quality of life for the patient. Costly and painful revision surgery may eventually be required to fix the problem.

In an effort to address this unmet clinical need, various research projects are looking to leverage tactile pressure sensor solutions during total knee-replacement surgery. A medical device equipped with tactile pressure sensing capability, for example, could wirelessly transmit pressure mapping data to a nearby computer in the operating room. This real-time joint pressure feedback would allow surgeons to make on-the-spot adjustments to the position of the implant and ligaments to ensure optimal alignment and balancing.

Overcoming this operating-room challenge through the use of capacitive tactile sensing technology could maximize the life of the knee implant and improve clinical outcomes for patients. Surgeons, on the other hand, stand to benefit from removing the guess work associated with knee implant alignment and regaining confidence.

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