Computer navigation has been used for hip and knee replacements for over a decade, but it has just recently made its way into the shoulder replacement world and I am happy to have this tool to offer my patients. When a surgeon performs a shoulder replacement the arthritic ball and socket are removed and replaced with a metal ball and socket. As you would imagine, it is important to place the new implant in the "perfect" position. Generally, the ability to do so is a reflection of the surgeon's skill and experience. Now there is new technology to help us. Computer navigated shoulder replacement begins by obtaining a CAT scan of the patients shoulder.
A computer program then builds a 3D model of the patients shoulder based on this scan. At the time of surgery, a device is used that synchronizes the actual position of the patient's shoulder to that of the model. Now as the surgeon works, he can see where his instruments are on the three dimensional model. This information allows us to make sure that we are placing the implants exactly where we intend to.
This is a picture from a recent shoulder replacement that I did using the Exactech GPS navigation system. As you can see, there is a computer in the operating room that shows us our patients shoulder model and where our instruments are working.