BU’s Orthopaedic Research Institute (ORI) is engaged in a range of impactful projects that fuse research, education and practice. One of these focuses on robot-assisted hip replacement surgery in partnership with the Nuffield Health Hospital in Bournemouth.

Professor Robert Middleton, Head of ORI, is undertaking the first in-depth analysis of using Mako robotic-assisted technology in hip replacements. The project hopes to demonstrate the benefits of the technology, and help make it available to everyone. Following a grant from orthopaedic device company Stryker, BU’s ORI and Nuffield Health Hospital in Bournemouth have partnered to conduct the research.

The Mako robotic arm works to help the surgeon perform a personalised procedure that is optimised for the individual patient. Prior to the surgery, a CT scan is taken of the patient’s hip, and then a 3D model of the hip is created by the Mako software. With that model, the surgeon can plan the perfect position for the replacement hip in that individual. During the surgery, the robotic arm attaches to the surgeon’s own arm and, while the arm does not perform the surgery itself, it guides the surgeon to ensure the hip replacement is put in the planned, ideal position.

Professor Middleton said: “I was first trained in robotic-assisted surgery 20 years ago. The Mako technology is now at a level where patients are seeing a real benefit from receiving robotic-assisted surgery including a quicker, less painful recovery and a longer-lasting implant. Not only that, but patients will also be able to return to high standards of activity like competitive sport, something which is unusual with current procedures.”

He continued: “As a professor and an orthopaedic consultant, not only do I want to perform hip replacements using robotic technology to the highest standard, but I also want to prove the benefits of using this technology over current standard practices so that it is more widely adopted in hospitals and everyone who needs a hip replacement can benefit in the future.”

ORI will see patients before operating and then up to one year after the hip replacement at BU’s GRAIL Gait Lab. The facility has state-of-the-art equipment including a 180-degree screen where medical professionals can take a deeper look at a patient’s gait as they swerve, jump and kick. The first operation was conducted in October 2017, and the team hopes to help make robotic arm-assisted hip replacements more widely available over the next few years.

Professor Middleton is also working to teach more surgeons to perform hip replacements with the Mako robotic-arm. Currently, Professor Middleton is hosting surgeon-to-surgeon visits to observe the operations he is performing. Later in the project, the team at ORI will be holding a training event for registrars and developing an MSc-level course for Mako robotic arm product specialists.

Professor John Fletcher, Professor of Economics and BU’s former Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation, commented: “This partnership will bring real benefits, not just to Dorset and the UK, but globally, as we work together to drive forward innovation and improvements in medical science. This project is just one of many good examples of how we are investing in some key areas and it underlines the university’s commitment to the combination of research, education and professional practice that we call ‘Fusion’. It’s clear that this research can make a real difference and help us to live better lives for longer.”