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Dartmouth surgeon first in Canada to perform total hip replacement with robot assistance

Dr. Jennifer Leighton demonstrates how she used robotic assistance to do a total hip replacement at the Dartmouth General Hospital in November. She says the robot gives her greater precision during the operation. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Dr. Jennifer Leighton demonstrates how she used robotic assistance to do a total hip replacement at the Dartmouth General Hospital in November. She says the robot gives her greater precision during the operation. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Last November, Nova Scotia surgeon Jennifer Leighton used a robot to help her plan, then guide her, as she replaced the hip of a patient at the Dartmouth General Hospital — a first in Canada for a total hip replacement procedure.

"This is the next level in orthopedic surgery," Leighton told reporters gathered in the hospital foyer Friday for a demonstration. "This is adding a level of accuracy and precision that we really have never been capable of before.

"This is going to be groundbreaking, not only for Nova Scotia, but for all of Canada."

She said robot-assisted surgery would "improve outcomes, allow patients to recover better and require less re-do surgery and overall improve what's already an outstanding surgery."

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

According to Leighton, orthopedic surgeons often need to operate again on their patients in order to fine-tune the work done in previous procedures.

"Personally, in my practice, that would probably take up about 20 per cent of my practice," she said. "And we have some very high-volume revision surgeons that are doing 80 per cent of their practice as re-do surgery.

"We're going to see some big changes there going forward."

The hospital was able to purchase the Mako SmartRobotics system thanks to a commitment by the Dartmouth Hospital Charitable Foundation to raise $2 million to cover its cost.

"Welcome to the future of health care here in Nova Scotia," foundation president Steven Harding said before the demonstration. "We love to fund innovation."

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

Gail Tomblin Murphy, vice-president of research, innovation and discovery at Nova Scotia Health echoed that sentiment.

"This is a big deal," said Tomblin Murphy. "We don't get it 100 per cent, and in fact, we test and try new technologies, some of them work and some of them don't work so well.

"This is one that we know is fantastic!"

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