Orthopedics

The Top 3 Orthopedic Technologies That Will Transform Your Practice

Discover the best orthopedic technology that will put your practice on the path toward the future of orthopedics.

The future of orthopedics holds many exciting possibilities, like incredibly precise robots for less invasive procedures and artificial intelligence for surgical decision-making. But you don’t have to wait years to benefit from innovative orthopedic technology — it’s already in use in many practices today.

Imagine seeing a patient’s internal anatomy and precise measurements layered directly over your field of vision while you’re operating. Or comparing digital models of different orthopedic implants to find the one that will fit your patient best. Orthopedic technologies can more efficiently and accurately perform many tasks, from surgical planning to patient monitoring, to save time and enhance patient outcomes.

Orthopedic templating software

Orthopedic templating software enables you to more accurately determine the best size and placement for an orthopedic implant to ensure it matches a patient’s specific anatomy. Compared to an analog approach, digital templating is more reliable and accurate for predicting the size, position, and alignment of an implant to restore a joint’s center of rotation and equalize limb length.

Like conventional analog templating, digital templating uses radiographs like X-ray images and CT scans. However, instead of layering transparencies of an implant over these radiological images, you can preview a digital representation of the implant. The preview allows you to compare the implant’s size and position against a patient’s unique anatomy. This enables you to better anticipate the postoperative results, like leg length, and make any adjustments before you even start the procedure.

Other benefits of using orthopedic templating software include:

  • Less time in the operating room: Using digital templating, you no longer need to try out multiple types and sizes of implants or adjust the placement for the optimal fit in the middle of the procedure.
  • Access to historical data: With orthopedic templating software, you can refer to the data from previous procedures when planning for similar cases. This saves you time during the preoperative planning process because you don’t have to start from scratch when testing out different implant brands, types, and sizes or considering which instruments to use.
  • Optimized resource management: When you know ahead of time exactly which implant and instruments you need, inventory management becomes much easier for your staff.

An example of orthopedic templating software is PeekMed, which uses artificial intelligence to automate processes like bone segmentation, landmark detection, and surgical planning. The software provides 2D and 3D templates and automatically places the most optimal template in the right position for better surgical accuracy.

Patient monitoring apps

Patient monitoring apps reduce the need for costly inpatient stays and help you provide patients with comprehensive support while they are at home. This technology enables patients to recover at home while trusting that their doctor is keeping an eye on them. By remotely collecting patient data, you get deeper insight into the patient experience, including pain levels and response to treatment protocols.

The growing popularity of digital health has created an opportunity to improve how we track personal health data and engage with patients. Among the most common forms of digital health in orthopedics are smartphone apps: a 2020 study found that over 64% of orthopedic doctors said that they regularly used apps in their day-to-day clinical practice. Patient monitoring through smartphone apps is much more accessible to both healthcare providers and patients who don’t need to purchase another wearable device, which might not be covered by their insurance.

While remote patient monitoring (RPM) only collects physiological data, like vital signs and blood pressure, remote therapeutic monitoring (RTM) gathers non-physiological data, like musculoskeletal activity and response to therapy. This offers much more flexibility on when and how you collect this data. RTM data includes patient-reported outcomes (PROs), where patients submit quantifiable data like pain intensity and pain interference. By combining these PROs with metrics like adherence to home exercise protocols (HEPs) and range of motion assessments, you get a fuller picture of your patient’s progress. This is especially valuable for orthopedic surgeons who only examine their patients every few weeks because you can see if they’re progressing as expected and intervene if not.

Exer Health is an AI-powered mobile app that uses a smartphone camera to collect critical post-op measurements like range of motion alongside daily or weekly prompts for PROs. Exer Health then provides your team with detailed reporting and progress charts for each patient, which promote highly productive check-ins and in-person sessions.

“My patients have been really excited about Exer Health,” said Dr. Catherine Logan of Colorado Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics in Denver, CO. “I think what they really like is that I’m involved between visits and that I’m very aware of how they’re doing and how they’re progressing.” 

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Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) is a cutting edge technology that's being used to improve surgical precision. It gives orthopedic surgeons “X-ray vision” so they can see a patient’s internal anatomy without having to look away from the patient to check a computer screen. Instead of mentally mapping 2D radiological images to a patient’s 3D anatomy, you can use an AR solution to display your preoperative plan in your field of view and thus better place implants or devices.

Although current uses of AR focus on total hip, knee, and shoulder replacement, it can also be used in some spinal surgeries. An augmented reality view provides multiple view angles and a topographical map of the spine during the procedure. This boosts your confidence in placing bone screws correctly and reduces the likelihood that your patient will need revision surgery due to a misplaced screw.

AR-enabled orthopedic technology also provides a more streamlined and cost-efficient alternative to robotics-assisted surgery, which often requires bulky equipment that takes up space in the operating room. This is especially important for ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), which tend to have smaller operating rooms.

Although augmented reality is still relatively new to orthopedics, recent commercial releases have made this technology available for real-life applications. Medacta’s NextAR Shoulder debuted in the United States and Europe in 2021, with over 200 patients successfully treated since its release. NextAR Shoulder generates a 3D virtual model of the anatomy of a patient’s shoulder for preoperative planning. You can also use this model while operating to “accurately track the position of instruments and implants in real-time.”

“The advantage of NextAR technology is in allowing me to precisely and accurately replicate my preoperative plan in real time, during surgery, without having to look away from my patient for navigation assistance,” said Dr. John-Erik Bell of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH.

Another example is Knee+ from Pixee Medical, which was released in the U.S. in 2022. The software provides real-time 3D positioning of instruments directly in your field of view using regular AR-enabled smart glasses with no need for additional equipment or other disposable tools.

“The product doesn’t need … big equipment and offers an easy and efficient way to achieve a plan compared to robotics and other more traditional navigation systems,” said Dr. Antonia Chen of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, who performed the first total knee arthroplasty using Knee+ in the U.S. in 2021. “You can perform a [total knee replacement] with only a small set of reusable instruments and essential information in your field of view. This is probably the most cost-effective solution for ASC.”

Discover what the best orthopedic technology can do for your practice

The right orthopedic technology empowers you to perform more accurate, predictable surgeries and gain deeper insight into your patients’ recovery. Although these technologies can optimize your workflows, the real value is how much more data you have. By collecting more precise data about your patients before, during, and after surgery, you can see what did and didn’t work and make more informed decisions for future patients.

To learn more about how an orthopedic surgeon used Exer Health to get over 90% engagement for daily patient-reported outcomes, check out our case study with Dr. Catherine Logan.

Photo by Piron Guillaume

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