The principles and application of total knee surgery using optical tracking have been well demonstrated, but electromagnetic tracking may offer further advantages. We asked whether an instrumented linkage that attaches directly to the bone can maintain the accuracy of the optical and electromagnetic systems but be quicker, more convenient, and less expensive to use. Initial testing using a table-mounted digitizer to navigate a drill guide for placing pins to mount a cutting guide demonstrated the feasibility in terms of access and availability. A first version (called the Mark 1) instrumented linkage designed to fix directly to the bone was constructed and software was written to carry out a complete total knee replacement procedure. The results showed the system largely fulfilled these goals, but some surgeons found that using a visual display for pin placement was difficult and time consuming. As a result, a second version of a linkage system (called the K-Link) was designed to further develop the concept. User-friendly flexible software was developed for facilitating each step quickly and accurately while the placement of cutting guides was facilitated. We concluded that an instrumented linkage system could be a useful and potentially lower-cost option to the current systems for total knee replacement and could possibly have application to other surgical procedures.

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