21st-Century Knee Surgery

Olathe Medical Center offers game-changing, first-in-region robotic knee surgery.

   Stephen Greer enjoys being active. He’s run marathons. He swims. He rides bikes. At 66, he isn’t the least bit interested in leading a sedentary life.

   But 10 years ago, doctors gave him dreaded news: his knees had osteoarthritis, a diagnosis that means cartilage has worn away and can result one day in total knee replacement surgery.

X-ray showing partial knee replacement


   “I just didn’t want to give it up,” he says of his athletic pursuits. “But with bone on bone, I could barely run. It just hurt.”

  Ever an optimist, Greer waited for some miracle of medicine that would prevent the invasive surgery a total knee replacement requires. Then, earlier this year, he learned that Olathe Medical Center was the first hospital in the region to offer a precise, minimally invasive, robotic-assisted partial knee replacement surgery, where only the damaged part of the knee cartilage is replaced.

   Greer immediately made an appointment with Dr. William W. Bohn, a surgeon with Johnson County Orthopedics & Sports Medicine who considers this surgery “a game changer.”

      Greer had successful surgery on his right knee on April 22 and June 17 on his left knee, with physical therapy crucial to his recovery. Two days after his surgeries, therapists had him doing exercises to strengthen his legs. Not only that, says Greer, but “Dr. Bohn told me that he didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t get back to running — not marathons — but back to running 3 or 4 miles a day on soft surfaces, treadmills, tracks.’”

   The hand-held robotic sculpting tool, which is used for this cutting-edge procedure, is similar in size to a curling iron and helps the surgeon prepare the joint for a partial knee implant. The precision of the robotics enables the surgeon to resurface bone inside the joint, resulting in the removal of as little natural tissue as possible and, therefore, less pain and a faster recovery. Creating a computerized map of the patient’s knee, the surgeon uses the robotic sculpting tool to shape the bone to fit the implant. With no pre-operative CT scan required, the patient is spared additional radiation exposure. Plus, smaller incisions result in less scarring and shorter hospital stays.

Dr. William w. bohn with the hand-held robotic sculpting tool


   “The old way of doing a partial knee replacement was more invasive,” Bohn says, requiring a four to six week recovery time. “Whereas with this [new technology], we’re pretty much seeing patients who look good 10 days out.”

   The procedure, however, is not an option for all patients with knee osteoarthritis. Bohn says ideal candidates are those with knee damage confined to a particular area of the joint. He says if patients can identify the area of their pain by pointing to it with one finger versus using their entire palm to indicate the entire knee hurts, they may be a candidate.

     At press time, Bohn had performed at least five procedures using the robotic surgery tool at Olathe Medical Center, and at least 10 more are planned.

      He’s also hopeful about medicine’s technical future.

   “It’s quite likely that we’re in the beginning of a bio-molecular revolution where molecular medicine is going to start to take hold,” Bohn says. “Maybe in 10 years you can get a series of shots in your knee rather than another surgery.”

   For more information, visit olathehealth.org or call (913) 782-1148.