New knee replacement procedure with better results, faster healing


by Jay Crandall, Special Projects Producer

Posted on June 15, 2011 at 9:57 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 15 at 9:57 PM

PHOENIX - Bill Lammers is a champion shot-put and discus thrower but he’s in his 60s and also knows those sports take a toll on your body.

"You put a lot of pressure on your knee, you are pushing off; legs a big thing in shot and disc."  For Lammers all that pressure added up to big knee problems." I really blew it up at the world games in 2010. I had a number of surgeries. He went in there and had eight pieces he took out of my knee and he fixed that, and it went out again and he did another surgery, and there wasn't anything left to do."

Lammers had previously had a full right knee replacement and, with weeks of pain and months of recovery time, did not want to repeat that with his left, so he says he began looking for alternatives. “Then I saw that ad for the Makoplasty; I went to Dr. [Jimmy] Chow and he did all kinds of tests and he said, 'hey we can do that for you’." 

Makoplasty is a procedure that involves a robot at Saint Luke's Hospital in Phoenix.  

Dr. Chow says he still does the operating but the robot helps guide his hand." I will be holding it like a tool, it is a burr and I do the entire surgery with just a burr, basically painting the bone away with the robot."  

Guided by a GPS system and programmed through x-rays and cat scans, the robot helps Dr. Chow fit the new knee parts perfectly. "So now at this point I can't move outside the lines. It is so precise that we have never seen this kind of precision in orthopedics ever before. That allows us to cut curves, and we never have been able to do that before. We have always had straight saws, and we've always cut angles."

That precision means surgery is less invasive, according to Dr. Chow, "Obviously if we don't have to put saws in a knee, we don't have to put cutting guides in a knee, we don't have to put alignment rods. All of the sudden the amount of space you have to work in is much reduced. It also means the new knee parts fit better and surgeons only need to replace those parts that are diseased. The additional power comes when you are talking about treating the knee as three compartments. Traditionally you had a uni-compartmental or your whole knee replaced. You had nothing in between."  

Bill says he was walking the same day as the surgery with minimal pain. "I threw in a meet 30 days after I had my knee replaced.”

In fact, he has collected a stack of medals since his surgery last August and set a new record just this past weekend in shot-put at the Rocky Mountain Senior Games, adding up to a win for Arizonans according to Dr. Chow.

"We were the first place in Arizona to have one."  It’s also a win for Lammers who couldn't feel better. "Right now I'm better than 100 plus because I am throwing better than I have since I got back into competition."  

Makoplasty is approved for people with osteoarthritis, but not rheumatoid arthritis. For more information go to