Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation




World First Robot Makes No Bones About Orthopaedic Research

Better Outcomes for Joint Replacement Surgery

Digital Images Give Vital Insights Into Bone Implants


World First Robot Makes No Bones About Orthopaedic Research
First Published: ENews - February 2011

Flinders research into bone and joint problems has been boosted by the development of a new robot, which is the most advanced of its type in the world.

Developed by a team including researchers from the Flinders Medical Devices and Technologies - Biomechanics and Implants group, based at Flinders University, and The University of Adelaide, the new hexapod robot can simulate people walking, bending, twisting and lifting and undertaking repetitive motions.

Two years in the making, the hexapod robot uses technology similar to three-dimensional 'virtual' rides at theme parks and in flight simulators (although more advanced) to subject the spines and joints of individuals who have donated their bodies to science to repetitive forces.

'By simulating the motion of a joint we are able to understand how that joint might fail, and therefore provide information that will allow the design and manufacture of better joint replacements, and more accurate information for computer simulation models of joint function and implant performance,' Flinders Biomechanical Engineer and project leader Dr John Costi, said.

It will also help researchers test the manufactured joint's ability to withstand wear and tear.

'We will be able to test materials in a very advanced way, twisting, pulling and pushing with up to two tonnes of force, with a very high precision of less than one tenth the width of a human hair,' Dr Costi said.

Dr Costi will use the robot to continue research into strains in spinal discs that may be a cause of 'slipped discs' and lower back pain.

Lower back pain affects approximately 70 percent of the adult population at some stage during their lives and in Australia, back problems are the most frequently seen musculoskeletal condition in general practice, and the third most common long-term health condition.

Dr Costi plans to subject spinal discs to thousands of stress cycles in different movement combinations. He will analyse the way in which they fail in the hope of providing improved manual handling guidelines in the workplace, and strategies to reduce the risk of damaging our discs during everyday activities.



Better Outcomes for Joint Replacement Surgery
First Published: Investigator - August 2004

The effect on the brain following joint replacement surgery will be the focus of a research study at Flinders in the coming months.


Previous studies from the USA have shown that patients who have undergone knee and hip replacements can experience micro-embolic material (numerous tiny particles of fat) lodging in the brain following surgery. This can cause marginal changes in a patient's brain function therefore effecting their recovery time.


What researchers want to know is who is at risk of this embolic phenomenon and how their outcome, following surgery, can be improved.


Working alongside Neuropsychologist Dr Anthony Kneebone, Professor Jegan Krishnan from the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery will look at 60 patients over a six-month period.


Patients will be examined the day before surgery and then three days after while still in hospital. If there are changes, this is the time they will be most marked. Patients will then be examined again six months later.


"We want to be able to measure and record changes that will allow us to identify the characteristics of those who would suffer this problem," said Professor Krishnan.


"We will look at pharmacological drugs to see if we can firstly, alter the risk, and secondly maybe vary treatment for those patients who develop this embolic occurrence."


Once assessment tools have been developed, doctors are hoping to be able to use these procedures on patients who are on the waiting list and possibly improve their outcome.


This study has been made possible through a research grant from the FMC Foundation and Professor Krishnan hopes the study will be completed by the end of the year.


Digital Images Give Vital Insights Into Bone Implants
First Published: Investigator - May 2003


A new revolutionary technique known as Radiostereometric Analysis (RSA), that enables better assessment of orthopaedic implants, has been introduced to Flinders Medical Centre.


Flinders Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Research, Dr John Field brought the program to Adelaide after attending an extensive training course in Sweden, where the technique was founded, making Adelaide a leader in this type of research within Australia.


RSA is a computer imaging program that enables scientists to obtain accurate position information in three-dimensions of orthopaedic implants which enable them to track any changes, (for example; wear and tear or movement) that may occur to the implant.


During surgery tiny radio-opaque markers are placed into the bone at several different points as well as markers already placed onto the implant. Directly after surgery, a digital image is obtained of the implant accurately pin-pointing the positions of the markers on the implant and in the bone. Images are subsequently taken at 3 months, 6 months and a year after surgery so that a comparison can be made to see the progress of the implant. This invaluable imaging technique provides insights into the strengths and weaknesses of orthopaedic implants and will enable better construction and implanting techniques for the future.


Dr Field said that this technique is a remarkable break-through for the orthopaedic world and will allow scientists to discover problems with implants before they appear obvious within the patient.


The RSA program has been in Adelaide only 6 months, but is already proving beneficial. The RSA program has been so successful that an upgraded version has recently been released in Sweden and Dr Field is hoping to see this program become part of everyday life for orthopaedic practice throughout Australia.


For further inquiries or information please contact Dr John Field at the Repatriation General Hospital on 8275 1042 or lantbruks@bigpond.com

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