Meet ROSA at Benefis! She's the Robot Helping Build Better Knees in Montana

This winter, Benefis Health System became the first location in Montana to offer a new knee surgery robot that brings increased precision and personalization to joint replacement. 

“Robotic assistance during knee replacement is an exciting technology that is being adopted across the nation,” Benefis orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jace Bullard said. “We are fortunate to have it in Great Falls.”

The Zimmer-Biomet ROSA Knee System (ROSA stands for robotic surgical assistant) helps Dr. Bullard carry out his surgical plan with exacting alignment. He explains below what this new tool means for surgeons and patients.

ROSA Benefis Orthopedics

What does ROSA do?

During surgery, the robot uses a camera and optical trackers for incredibly detailed tracking of the patient’s knee, similar to the way a car’s GPS works, but down to a fraction of an inch. This helps ensure the surgery plan is executed precisely as the surgeon intends. Throughout the surgery, the robot sends the surgeon data about the knee, which helps inform them how to position the implant based on each person’s unique anatomy. ROSA acts primarily as a tool and guide for the surgeon. It does not actually perform any part of the procedure on the patient.

Why does that matter to a patient?

With patients living longer and getting total joint replacements younger, it’s even more important to have as perfect an alignment as possible for the greatest prosthesis longevity. Problems with alignment and inaccurate bone cuts can lead to failure of a knee replacement and the need for revision surgery. ROSA helps improve accuracy and allows surgeons to tailor the knee replacement in a way that may feel more natural and satisfying to patients. The expectation is that over time, using ROSA will mean fewer revisions, improved pain levels, superior functional results, and, ultimately, happier patients. 

What other benefits are there to robot-assisted surgery? 

Dr Bullard Benefis

Unlike some robotic platforms, ROSA does not require a pre-operative CT scan or MRI, which reduces expenses and exposure to radiation. The procedure may also be slightly less invasive, which could reduce pain and speed healing. Historically, previously implanted hardware sometimes presented a problem for patients undergoing knee replacement. In certain situations, using ROSA allows surgeons to leave previous hardware in place, eliminating the need for additional or more complex procedures. In addition, the use of ROSA reduces the number of tools needed compared to conventional techniques, which in turn reduces time and cost for the teams that clean and prepare the instruments. 

How does ROSA change surgery from your perspective? What’s it like to use?

I love it. It gives me objective information I can use to plan and carry out a knee replacement with a high degree of accuracy and personalization for the patient. We’ve never had so much measurable information available in real time during surgery. It is truly an exciting technology with the potential to significantly improve upon a procedure that affects millions across the nation. 

How have patients responded so far? 

We’ve seen a lot of happy patients so far, including a patient who insisted on having both knees done at once. One patient left Montana for his first knee replacement so he could benefit from robotic technology and was ecstatic to have his second robotic-assisted knee replacement done close to home. 

How can patients start the process of a knee replacement?

You can make an appointment online or call (406) 455-5000.