Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Smart Surgery Strip-Based Firm Wants to Bring Its Robot to U.S

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Smart Surgery Strip-Based Firm Wants to Bring Its Robot to U.S

Article excerpt

One month ago today, an orthopedic surgeon in Belgium performed the first partial-knee replacement on a patient using a hand-held "smart drill" developed by a team of robotics, mechanical engineering and software development specialists at Blue Belt Technologies Inc. in the Strip District.

If the success of that operation is any indication, the Navio PFS system could soon be introduced to the U.S.

Already approved for use in Europe, the Navio PFS system will be formally introduced to the entire European orthopedic community next month at the British Orthopaedic Association meeting in Manchester, England.

Then it's on to the U.S.

Blue Belt president and CEO Eric Timko says the company has already applied for approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and hopes to have that by year's end "with full commercialization in the U.S. in 2013."

With the Navio system, the standard surgeon's orthopedic drill is placed inside a holder equipped with robotic and navigation software.

The combination gives the surgeon real-time information about the positioning and anatomy of the patient's knee joint, as well as three-dimensional visualization on a computer screen. That, in turn, helps surgeons avoid cutting excess bone or damaging surrounding tissue as they shape the bone so the implant will fit well.

"The system allows you to get it right the first time," said Costa Nikou, Blue Belt's director of software development.

Orthopedic surgeon Brian Hamlin, who practices at the bone and joint center at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC and is on Blue Belt's scientific advisory board, said the ability to correctly place the implant "will allow for durability and long-term success for your patients."

Currently, anywhere from 2 to 5 percent of partial-knee replacements have to be redone within a year, possibly because the alignment is wrong, or the implant has shifted, or simply because the patient is still in pain. …

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