Shoulder replacements can be difficult to perform, especially when anatomical deformities in the joint and missing bone in the scapula increase the complexity of placing the implant as accurately as possible. Surgeons often adapt on the fly by adjusting the size, position or orientation of the implant or by using grafts to buttress native bone, but emerging technologies are taking some of the guesswork and challenge out of achieving optimal outcomes.
Computer navigation lets surgeons assess the patient’s specific anatomy before surgery to decide where implants should be optimally placed and oriented, and what size implants are needed. Surgeons upload the data into a software platform in the OR and execute the plan as closely as possible. “Computer navigation has been one of the biggest advancements in shoulder replacement surgery over the past decade,” says John-Erik Bell, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Clinics in Lebanon, N.H. “Augmented reality (AR) glasses take the technology to the next level by overlaying the digital plan in the surgeon’s direct line of sight, so they don’t have to divert their attention away from the patient.”