ITHACA, N.Y. – A robotics system will soon have a hand in knee surgeries at Cayuga Medical Center, with the addition of a NAVIO surgical system to the orthopedics toolkit. The system is designed to assist surgeons during knee replacements to improve the precision of incisions and implant placements.

Dr. Deidre Blake, medical director and orthopedic surgeon at CMC, spearheaded the effort to bring a NAVIO system to the hospital. She said the technology is widely used at larger hospitals and will help CMC offer patients more options, including partial knee replacements.

“In general, I think it will allow more patients in our community to stay right here,” she said at a technology demonstration Monday, March 11, in the CMC lobby.

Blake said NAVIO has benefits for both surgeons and patients. As she moved an imaging wand over a model knee, a 3D image appeared on a monitor. Such real-time imaging allows doctors to adapt during surgery, for instance, if a knee shows damage from past surgeries or injuries. It also means patients do not need to undergo inconvenient and costly pre-operative CT scans.

Dr. Deidre Blake demonstrates the NAVIO system. (Provided by Cayuga Medical Center)

Marty Stallone, CEO of CMC, said NAVIO would streamline knee replacement care. “Real-time imaging simplifies the surgical process for patients and enables office staff to focus on patient care by eliminating the need to spend time managing payer approvals for preoperative imaging,” he said in a press release.

After imaging a knee, the NAVIO system lets surgeons determine where to place an implant on the screen and then communicates with a hand tool to ensure implant placement is accurate. At the demonstration, Blake began an incision on the model knee. She jerked her hand slightly to the side, and the cutting tip of the hand tool retracted. The tool is programmed with the on-screen cutting guide, and can therefore prevent the surgeon from making cuts that are off-course or too deep.

Blake emphasized throughout Monday’s event that the surgeon is in control while using the NAVIO system. Robotics assistance does not automate surgery, but rather aims to improve surgeons’ precision.

Improvements to precision are particularly useful for partial knee replacements, which keep healthy supporting tissues and ligaments intact while replacing only the damaged portion of the joint. While the NAVIO system is FDA approved for total and partial knee replacements, it was initially designed specifically for the more delicate partial procedure.

“I see this opening the door to a huge amount of partial knee replacements,” Blake said of CMC’s new technology.

Research shows partial knee replacements often lead to less pain, faster healing and the recovery of more natural biomechanics for patients who only have arthritis in part of their knee when compared to total replacements. However, Blake said CMC has traditionally performed few partial replacements because they lacked a robotics system.

“NAVIO is the best way to do it,” Blake said, noting that partial replacements are very difficult with standard instruments.

While Blake and Stallone touted the new system’s benefits, it came at a cost – about $500,000. Blake said the transition to robotics-assisted surgery will not require significant training or adjustments for doctors. Most orthopedic surgeons, she said, already learned to use the system during their residencies at larger hospitals.

For patients, the system will not bring direct cost impacts, though locals who now choose to have their surgery in Ithaca rather than traveling might see some savings.

The first NAVIO-assisted surgeries in Ithaca are scheduled for late-April. In the meantime, CMC will offer patient seminars to showcase the technology. Dr. Blake will lead seminars on March 18 at the Port Watson Conference Center in Cortland and on March 20 at Coltivare in Ithaca. In addition, Dr. Joseph Mannino will offer a seminar at Glenora Wine Cellars in Dundee on March 25. All seminars begin at 6 p.m. and a buffet style dinner will be served.

Featured image:Deidre Blake and Marty Stallone discuss the NAVIO system’s capabilities. (Provided by CMC)

Devon Magliozzi

Devon Magliozzi is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at dmagliozzi@ithacavoice.com or 607-391-0328.