By Jacqueline Robledo
Jeff Gordon shattered his kneecap and tore his ACL in a skiing accident his sophomore year at UCLA 38 years ago. But even after multiple surgeries, the 59-year-old man has never had full range of motion in his knee—until now.
After his accident, he had a routine ACL repair surgery followed by 10 days in the hospital, six months of intense therapy and two more arthroscopic cleanups. He has done everything from physical therapy to stem cell injections, but nothing made his knee feel like it did before the accident.
Eight months ago, he explains, his knee “really started acting up,” so he decided to visit Dr. James Chow.
Chow, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in knee and hip surgeries at Abrazo Scottsdale Campus, helped design and develop a new robotic surgical system using CORI, the newest robot on the market.
Chow has been trained in medicine and engineering and has been involved in designing and trailing robotic technology in orthopedics for the last 10 years.
According to Chow, Phoenix has the single largest orthopedic robotics market in the world.
On top of that, Abrazo Scottsdale Campus has the most robots in the Valley and now offers five types of surgical robots, allowing minimally invasive techniques and adding precision and accuracy to the surgeon’s movements. Chow also explains that every surgeon at the Abrazo Scottsdale Campus is trained in robotics and contributes to the education and design of the robots.
He was instrumental in the design and development of the CORI Surgical System for the last four and a half years. The system uses artificial intelligence that helps surgeons more accurately and efficiently place and size implants.
“I map out the knee so the computer can see the entire knee, I kind of draw the knee and it shows up on the computer screen,” Chow says. “And then the computer has in its database all the different sizes, shapes and designs of knee-replacement implants. And then you can theoretically put those in.”
The artificial intelligence program allows the surgeon to see exactly how the new knee will perform, allowing adjustments to be made before the procedure.
The final part of the surgery includes the handheld robot.
“It extends and retracts to autocorrect what I’m doing with my hands,” Chow explains. “It takes all of the stuff that I prepare on the computer and allows that to translate to real time in real space.”
Chow performed the first surgery using CORI after it was approved for hospital use on July 10. He performed an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) preserving total knee replacement on Gordon. The surgery works to spare every ligament in the knee, including the ACL.
“Now I don’t walk with a limp,” Gordon says. “Still going to therapy twice a week, but I’m getting very, very good range of motion. I already have better extension than I have ever had since the first injury 30 years ago, so I’m thrilled with it.”
Chow explains the surgery he performed on Gordon was much less invasive than a traditional knee replacement surgery, and he has received the benefits of a shorter recovery because of this.
“I walked out of there with a walker that day and really was off all major pain meds within a week and off the walker in about 10 days,” Gordon says.