Robotic-arm assisted unicompartmental knee arthroplasty system has a learning curve of 11 cases and increased operating time

Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2022 Jan 4. doi: 10.1007/s00167-021-06814-2. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: UKA has higher revision risk, particularly for lower volume surgeons. While robotic-arm assisted systems allow for increased accuracy, introduction of new systems has been associated with learning curves. The aim of this study was to determine the learning curve of a UKA robotic-arm assisted system. The hypothesis was that this may affect operative times, patient outcomes, limb alignment, and component placement.

Methods: Between 2017 and 2021, five surgeons performed 152 consecutive robotic-arm assisted primary medial UKA, and measurements of interest were recorded. Patient outcomes were measured with Oxford Knee Score, EuroQol-5D, and Forgotten Joint Score at 6 weeks, 1 year, and 2 years. Surgeons were grouped into 'low' and 'high' usage groups based on total UKA (manual and robotic) performed per year.

Results: A learning curve of 11 cases was found with operative time (p < 0.01), femoral rotation (p = 0.02), and insert sizing (p = 0.03), which highlighted areas that require care during the learning phase. Despite decreased 6-week EQ-5D-5L VAS in the proficiency group (77 cf. 85, p < 0.01), no difference was found with implant survival (98.2%) between phases (p = 0.15), or between 'high' and 'low' usage surgeons (p = 0.23) at 36 months. This suggested that the learning curve did not lead to early adverse effects in this patient cohort.

Conclusion: Introduction of a UKA robotic-arm assisted system showed learning curves for operative times and insert sizing but not for implant survival at early follow-up. The short learning curve regardless of UKA usage indicated that robotic-arm assisted UKA may be particularly useful for low-usage surgeons.

Level of evidence: Level III, Retrospective cohort study.

Keywords: Knee replacement; Learning curve; Medial; Operative time; Robot; Unicompartmental knee arthroplasty; Usage.