Current state of computer navigation and robotics in unicompartmental and total knee arthroplasty: a systematic review with meta-analysis

Jelle P. van der List*, Harshvardhan Chawla, Leo Joskowicz, Andrew D. Pearle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Recently, there is a growing interest in surgical variables that are intraoperatively controlled by orthopaedic surgeons, including lower leg alignment, component positioning and soft tissues balancing. Since more tight control over these factors is associated with improved outcomes of unicompartmental knee arthroplasty and total knee arthroplasty (TKA), several computer navigation and robotic-assisted systems have been developed. Although mechanical axis accuracy and component positioning have been shown to improve with computer navigation, no superiority in functional outcomes has yet been shown. This could be explained by the fact that many differences exist between the number and type of surgical variables these systems control. Most systems control lower leg alignment and component positioning, while some in addition control soft tissue balancing. Finally, robotic-assisted systems have the additional advantage of improving surgical precision. A systematic search in PubMed, Embase and Cochrane Library resulted in 40 comparative studies and three registries on computer navigation reporting outcomes of 474,197 patients, and 21 basic science and clinical studies on robotic-assisted knee arthroplasty. Twenty-eight of these comparative computer navigation studies reported Knee Society Total scores in 3504 patients. Stratifying by type of surgical variables, no significant differences were noted in outcomes between surgery with computer-navigated TKA controlling for alignment and component positioning versus conventional TKA (p = 0.63). However, significantly better outcomes were noted following computer-navigated TKA that also controlled for soft tissue balancing versus conventional TKA (mean difference 4.84, 95 % Confidence Interval 1.61, 8.07, p = 0.003). A literature review of robotic systems showed that these systems can, similarly to computer navigation, reliably improve lower leg alignment, component positioning and soft tissues balancing. Furthermore, two studies comparing robotic-assisted with computer-navigated surgery reported superiority of robotic-assisted surgery in controlling these factors. Manually controlling all these surgical variables can be difficult for the orthopaedic surgeon. Findings in this study suggest that computer navigation or robotic assistance may help managing these multiple variables and could improve outcomes. Future studies assessing the role of soft tissue balancing in knee arthroplasty and long-term follow-up studies assessing the role of computer-navigated and robotic-assisted knee arthroplasty are needed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3482-3495
Number of pages14
JournalKnee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, European Society of Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery, Arthroscopy (ESSKA).


  • Computer navigation
  • Robotics
  • Soft tissue balancing
  • Total knee arthroplasty
  • Unicompartmental knee arthroplasty


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