Ask the Doctor: Robotic-Arm Assisted Knee Replacement Surgery with Dr. Tom


Albert Tom, M.D., a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon who specializes in full knee replacement at St. Joseph Hospital Orthopedics, answers questions about this procedure.

What drew you to specialize in orthopedics?

Image of a man with dark hair wearing blue scrubs.

From an early age I was interested in carpentry. I liked working with my hands. When I became interested in medicine, orthopedics seemed like a great fit for me. If a patient needs a joint replacement, I perform surgery and make them whole again. It is gratifying to have an immediate and positive impact on a patient by helping them get back to enjoying their life.

If a patient is looking for an orthopedic surgeon, what should they consider?

In my experience, it is important for patients to:

  • Build a genuine rapport with their doctor. Be sure you are comfortable with the surgeon’s education, background and experience. Ask for a consultation. Afterwards, be sure you feel informed and cared for.
  • Consider word of mouth recommendations. The majority of my patients are referred to me by other patients who are family members, friends and neighbors who had a good experience with me, the procedure and practice team.

Why would a patient need a full knee replacement?

Patients typically require knee replacements because of arthritis. Certainly, genetics can predispose a patient to arthritis. In addition, injuries, inflammatory autoimmune disease, or a loss of blood flow to the bone may also lead to arthritis.

Why did St. Joseph Hospital implement the Mako Robotic-Arm?

Advanced technology has found its way into every aspect of our lives. The robotic arm is simply part of how we can improve upon the care we provide our patients. The robot uses CT-based planning software, which gives the surgeon detailed information about the anatomy of a patient’s knee.

Why is the robotic-arm approach more accurate and precise than traditional knee surgery?
Because the approach is based on a CT scan, an advanced imaging technique generates a three-dimensional model of the knee. This information is uploaded by the robot and used to precisely size, position and fit the replacement knee. I’m able to make extremely fine adjustments, on the scale of millimeters or single degrees, to optimize a patient’s alignment, balance and outcome. In addition, this is a safer approach because the robot maps out the exact boundaries of the bone, detecting where it is and stopping if it gets too close to a boundary – and that’s a significant safety feature.

What’s your best advice for patient’s considering knee replacement surgery?

My best advice for patients to do their research. Knee replacement surgery will require physical therapy and rehabilitation, but ultimately is the path to pain relief and restored function. I encourage patients to take advantage of the home care, physical therapy and rehabilitation services St. Joe’s offers so they can get back to the activities they love as soon as possible.

To learn more about Dr. Tom, please click here. To learn more about St. Joseph Hospital Orthopedics, how the robotic-arm works and classes to prepare for knee replacement surgery, click here.

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