PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Gordon Morrice is a lifelong athlete, avid outdoorsmen and mountain climber. But last year, the pain in his knees grew so intense, it hurt to get out of bed.

“My knees were hurting so badly I couldn’t do anything,” he says.

He had one total knee replacement. The recovery and rehab were extremely painful.

“Worst pain I ever experienced really,” he remarks.

He was facing the pain of a second knee replacement. But in Sacramento, he was offered a computer guided, robot assisted, partial knee replacement touted as more precise and less invasive leading to a kinder, gentler recovery.

Using a 3D model of the knee taken by a CT scan, the doctor guides the robot arm. The diseased portion of the knee is “resurfaced,” sparing as much of the patient’s healthy bone and surrounding tissue as possible.

“Resurfacing is basically taking away the worn out cartilage and a little bit of bone and replacing that part with metal and plastic,” says Dr. Paul Sasaura, an orthopedist at Mercy San Juan Medical Center.

“It was just as easy as could be. I had the operation on Wednesday. I came home on Thursday. I was at the golf course on Friday,” says Gordon.

But there are no orthopedic surgeons in Pittsburgh using this technique, for a couple of reasons.

“First is cost, there’s substantially increased cost, the hospitals just cannot recoup. The second is the lack of long term studies,” says Dr. Jon Tucker, an orthopedist in Mt. Lebanon. “A tool that will allow you to make the cuts in the bone in a precise way doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the implant is going to work any better than what’s already out there.”

He uses a different approach with 20 years of data behind it. “I’d say, ‘Stay in Pittsburgh.’ The partial knee replacements that myself and my colleagues around the tri-state area are implanting are very durable, very reliable and offer superior results. You don’t need to travel.”

Even with the more standard technique, patients getting the partial knee replacement are also out of the hospital in a day.

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