The same type of gyroscope technology that’s used in various “self-righting” applications (cell phones, video game controllers, etc.) is being tested in a new tool that purportedly allows surgeons to position knee implants at the perfect angle and orientation.
Called the iAssist from the Zimmer corporation, it consists of two main parts: 1) the tool itself which contains the gyroscope and a WiFi transmitter and 2) an LED panel that receives and interprets the precise location of the tool. The result may be a better way to guide bone and implants into their ideal positions. Traditionally, that’s not been an easy task — the knee is a tight, cramped space and even the most experienced surgeons use plenty of feel and touch to “fit” everything together to optimize movement AND durability. The iAssist is designed to bridge that gap and, if nothing else, should serve as an excellent training tool.
Other potential upsides include less blood loss, shorter recover times and a quicker overall procedure (traditionally, it takes many more tools to accurately merge bone and implant).
Is it widely available?
Not yet. It’s only been tested in a handful of hospitals, most extensively at the Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem. There have been a few trials run in the U.S. and I’m sure plenty more are in the works. If you’re planning on surgery this year, chances are it won’t be available yet, but keep an eye out for it in the future. If the iAssist passes all its tests with flying colors, you may just see your doctor wielding in sometime soon.