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This R.I. surgeon is using robotic technology in procedures, and is live-streaming them all over the world

The Boston Globe’s weekly Ocean State Innovators column features Q&A with innovators from Rhode Island creating new businesses and nonprofits, conducting breakthrough research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Alexa Gagosz at alexa.gagosz@globe.com.

It has been more than 10 years since South County Hospital pioneered the use of robotic surgical technology in Rhode Island operating rooms Mako SmartRoboticsfrom Stryker for hip and knee replacements.

Dr. Robert Marchand, the orthopedic surgeon who was a leader in this technology, is usually in one of the hospital’s operating rooms, where he not only enables his patients to get mobile again, but also broadcasts his techniques live to other surgeons in live training sessions .

Before the pandemic, he performed about two live interventions every month. Since the pandemic began, he has said he has patients’ hips and knees under the knife and in front of the camera at least once a day.

Q: How do you sell this method to a patient?

Marchand: Precision is the key. Orthopedic surgeons always looked at X-rays. But that’s always an afterthought. They said, “Oh, this looks pretty good” or “I could have done better”. Which patient would like to hear, “This operation could have been better?” Using this technology is more precise than what anyone could do manually. And precision translates into better results.

Q: How is this method better than more precise?

Marchand: I used to have to make the cuts a little bigger. I would have to use more retractors to pull the tissues apart. These incisions without this technology are about one and a half times larger than the incisions I make using this technology. With this method, the incisions are smaller and there is less tissue damage. That will be a better result for the patient and he will recover a little faster.

Q: Why aren’t more orthopedic surgeons in Rhode Island using this technology?

Marchand: When I started using this technology, I invited other surgeons from other health systems to observe it. They wanted to learn, but then they would go back to their systems and have no access.

I can’t answer for other institutions but I can tell you it was a big buy from the start. Now there are all sorts of financial ways to get a robot, such as: B. a rental agreement. It’s a lot easier to afford now.

Last year I performed around 1,200 joint replacement jobs myself. The state makes about 4,500 in the state. To have this type of technology, you have to have a surgeon who is committed to it. Some surgeons are selfish and honestly don’t think they need it.

Q: where are the mako machines now?

In 2010, when it all started, there was a Mako machine in Buffalo, three MAKO machines here in South County, and one in New York in Specialty Surgery. 10 years later there are 1,000 Mako machines worldwide. There’s one in Fall River, Mass General Hospital in Boston has one, and there are others in parts of New England [including Rhode Island].


Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.

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