February 2000 Bulletin

Computer tools aid surgeons

Informational technologies and computer-assisted surgical tools hold the promise of improving patient outcomes. These interventional computer-assisted technologies and tools will span every phase of surgical practice, including diagnosis and preoperative planning, intraoperative surgical techniques, and will more directly relate surgical practice to postoperative patient outcome studies.

The Academy has approved a Robotics and Computer Assisted Surgery Special Interest Group (SIG) to enable members to exchange information on this topic. "An important goal in forming this SIG is education of the AAOS membership," explains Anthony M. DiGioia III, MD, chairman.

"One of our roles will be to help surgeons understand what these enabling technologies do and do not do," Dr. DiGioia says. "I believe that once they effectively understand and relate robotics, image-guided and computer-assisted surgical systems to clinical orthopaedic practice, it’ll be a natural connection. Surgeons will then likely be interested in using these tools to enhance their surgical practices to the benefit of their patients."

The SIG also will support the exchange of information between surgeons on state-of-the-art techniques and perspectives in this relatively new, but rapidly evolving clinical area. "These emerging computer-based technologies are now being used clinically and will influence the way we plan, simulate and execute surgery," Dr. DiGioia explains. He believes the U.S. has lagged behind Europe and Asia in both the understanding and clinical acceptance of these areas. "One of the reasons is that there are many misconceptions about these technologies which are really just tools," says Dr. DiGioia. "These computer-assisted technologies will become the next generation of surgical tools and are to enhance a surgeon’s ability–not to replace them."

According to Dr. DiGioia, another important reason for orthopaedists to explore the advanced technology is that it gives orthopaedists an opportunity to measure and quantify surgical techniques which will help to directly relate surgical practice to patients’ outcomes.

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