Robotic-assisted Total Knee Replacement

The orthopedic surgeons at UW Hospitals and Clinics offer robotic-assisted total knee replacement for patients with severe osteoarthritis that causes serious pain and issues with movement.


What happens during total knee replacement surgery?


In knee replacement surgery, the arthritic portion of the knee is removed and covered with a combination of plastic and metal parts that form the new surfaces of the knee joint. During robotic total knee replacement, surgeons use computed tomography (CT) scans to build a virtual model of the patient's knee. With that model as guide, the surgeon then uses the robotic arm to embed the components of the new knee precisely.


UW Health orthopedic surgeon Richard Illgen has pioneered robotic-assisted knee replacement and serves as a regional and national expert in these techniques. He is currently collecting data to determine if the improved accuracy achieved with better planning and execution translate into improved outcomes.



Patients Who May Benefit from Robotic-Assisted Total Knee Replacement


During total knee replacement surgery, surgeons replace all three compartments of the knee. Patients for whom total knee replacement, rather than partial knee replacement, is the best option have severe arthritis, stiffness or deformity (crookedness).


UW Health orthopedic surgeons determine the appropriate procedure on an individual basis. 


Benefits of Robotic-Assisted Total Knee Replacement


The precision of robotic-assisted surgery allows for:

  • More accurate implant positioning, which can result in a more natural feeling after surgery
  • Improved safety and reduced risk of injury to adjacent tissues
  • Small incisions, which can mean a quicker recovery, a shorter hospitalization and less pain
  • The potential for better long-term function

Robotic Technology


Before the procedure, surgeons capture digital computed tomography (CT) scans of your knee. This data allows surgeons to determine where to place the knee implant.


During the procedure, the surgeon uses the robotic arm to precisely shape the surrounding bone before placing the implant. Real-time video images provide visual reinforcement, which helps surgeons navigate hard-to-see areas.


At the same time, the system uses the CT image data to create a predefined, three-dimensional "envelope" of space in which the surgeon works. The robotic arm will only operate in that predefined space, so there is no chance of an instrument slipping and injuring adjacent tissues.


Meet Our Surgeons

Richard L. Illgen II, MD

Dr. Illgen is certified by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS) and has completed specialized training in adult reconstructive surgery (hip and knee replacement). He currently serves as co-director of the Arthritis and Joint Replacement P...

Brian T. Nickel, MD

Dr. Nickel is a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in minimally invasive hip and knee surgery. His expertise includes hip and knee reconstruction and replacement with emphasis on minimally invasive techniques and rapid recovery.&nbs...