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  • Alex Hattaway

A ‘tipping point’ may be coming for digital instrumentation in orthopedic surgery

While some surgeons are hesitant to rely on digital technology, a “tipping point” may be coming for the use of digital instrumentation in total joint arthroplasty, according to a joint replacement specialist.

“Digital instrumentation and tools are maturing. They are moving from expensive, slow [and] no better to simpler, more accurate [and] more efficient,” Daniel J. Berry, MD, from the department of orthopedic surgery at the Mayo Clinic - Rochester, said in his presentation at the Current Concepts in Joint Replacement Winter Meeting. “My prediction is ... in the next 2 to 5 years, everything will look different and many arthroplasty instruments will have some digital component,” he added.

With an influx of surgeons who grew up as “digital natives,” surgeon receptiveness has grown, according to Berry. Even surgeons who are not “digital natives” are becoming more comfortable with digital devices in everyday life, he said.

Additionally, the technology has improved. Digital instrumentation costs are coming down, and increased efficiency and intuitiveness allow for more time to learn and less time to set up, Berry added.

However, surgeons need to evaluate new technologies in a systemic way, he said. The technology may be ready for practice if it solves a real and important clinical issue, such as acetabular component position outliers or knee component alignment challenges, he added.

Berry also stressed that this technology should make tasks simpler, not more complex, and surgeons must anticipate the risks and drawbacks.

“The tipping point is coming,” Berry concluded. “Prepare yourself. Be receptive, but be smart.”

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