It is estimated that more than 30 million Americans have osteoarthritis of the knee. The cartilage that protects the bones in the knee can wear down over time so that bones begin to rub together. The resulting pain and immobility leads many people to surgery. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports that a Houston hospital is one of the very few in the country to use the latest technology to repair damaged knees.

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The hospital is Foundation Surgical Hospital, a physician owned hospital near the Southwest Freeway and the West Loop. The technology is the MAKO Haptic Guidance System. Dr. Henry Blum says partial knee replacement has been done for a long time.

"But this has taken the next step in that it's added computer technology and robotic technology to the procedure so that it makes it much more precise and usually lessens the pain and the recovery, and makes it more, we think, a longer lasting procedure."

Basically it works like this: a patient has a CT scan of the knee. That information is loaded into a computer that precisely maps the affected area. The robotics then allows the surgeon to remove the arthritis and place the implant at a very specific location.

"Because of the use of the robot and the navigation or computerized mapping system, we're able to use a smaller incision and do much less damage to the surrounding soft tissue and surrounding bone. So we're just able to operate on the areas that have been damaged by the arthritis and do it a truly minimally invasive type setting."

Dr. Blum says MAKOplasty uses audio and visual cues to inform the surgeon, and there is a stop that prevents the burr that is removing the arthritis from taking out anything but the affected area of the knee.

Susan Hemminger recently had MAKOplasty for a partial knee replacement after her knee began hurting 14 months, however the route to Foundation Surgical Hospital was not direct.

"I went to another doctor and he said it was arthritis; live with it. Well, I think we've all heard of those incidents where you get in your car and start crying going this did not happen to me."

Hemminger says she learned that if you don't like what one physician tells you talk to another one. It was just luck that the next doctor she picked from the list on her insurance plan was Dr. Stefan Kreuzer at Foundation Surgical Hospital. She eventually became one of the first people to undergo MAKOplasty here. Two weeks later she was back at work. Hemminger says now she's working on relearning how to walk without a limp.

"I really thought that I would be able to walk easily again. I didn't realize that many people, after having a limp for such a long time, you have to retrain your mind to walk, so I'm working with my physical therapist and we're getting all taken care of."

Susan Hemminger says she is now ready to get back on the golf course and resume the life that a painful knee put an end to, 14 months ago.

For more on MAKOplasty, you'll find a link at

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