New robot driving innovation in joint surgery

A $400,000 robot which may hold the key to significant improvements in hip and knee replacements is now operational at the Kolling Institute.

Known as KOBRA or the Kolling Orthopaedic Biomechanics Robotic Arm, the new technology delivers an advanced testing facility, while greatly increasing research capabilities.

It is the largest of its kind in Australia and one of just two SimVitro robots in the country.

Director of the Kolling’s Murray Maxwell Biomechanics Lab Associate Professor Elizabeth Clarke has welcomed its installation, saying it represents a significant step for orthopaedic and biomedical engineering research, new surgical techniques and medical technologies.

“KOBRA will be used to simulate complex human movements on joints. This is a new way of working and very few other machines have this capability where they can test joints through a broad range of life-like manoeuvers, like hip flexing, squatting, walking and throwing.

“We expect to use the robot in the testing of implants, particularly for hip and knee replacements, to gauge how the implants will function and to help ensure the movement is as life-like as possible,” Associate Professor Clarke said.

The orthopaedic biomechanics robotic is not only expected to advance hip and knee replacements, but is also likely to assist surgeons working to repair chronic shoulder instability. Large numbers of patients are presenting with this injury and the information provided by the robot will help to improve the quality of research and optimise surgical approaches.

Professor Bill Walter, Royal North Shore Hospital orthopaedic surgeon and Professor of Orthopaedics and Traumatic Surgery at the University of Sydney has witnessed advances in surgical techniques over many years.

He said the next improvements will be delivered through new technologies provided by robots like KOBRA.

“We have seen that previous innovations have come through new materials and design. The next innovations however in joint replacement surgery will be delivered through improved biomechanics of the artificial joints,”

“It’s tremendously encouraging to see this world-leading technology coming to the Kolling. It will assist researchers, engineers and surgeons, and ultimately lead to improved surgical techniques, better placement of implants and good long-term health outcomes for our community.”

The robot has been made possible following a collaboration between the Northern Sydney Local Health District, the University of Sydney, the Kolling Institute, the NSW Investment Boosting Business Innovation program and the RNSH Staff Specialist Trust Fund.