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“Smart knee” technology allows knee replacement patients to actively engage in their care

By Andy Stonehouse

As intelligent, connected technology becomes more prevalent in every aspect of our daily lives, it’s probably no surprise that apps and digital feedback are becoming a part of the high-tech world of orthopaedic surgery.

Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery is currently offering a one-of-a-kind, interconnected pair of all-new tech tools which promise to significantly and proactively improve the outcome of knee replacement patients.

Dr. Nathan Cafferky, a well-respected total joint surgeon and partner in VSON, is one of the first surgeons in the country to use the Persona IQ® “smart knee,” an FDA-approved knee replacement prosthetic that has been very subtly implanted with a data-sharing unit.



Dr. Nathan Cafferky uses technology, such as the smart knee or robotics systems routinely in his surgical procedures, to help him and VSON stay on the cutting edge of patient-focused care.
Dr. Nathan Cafferky uses technology, such as the smart knee or robotics systems routinely in his surgical procedures, to help him and VSON stay on the cutting edge of patient-focused care.

When used in conjunction with the mymobility® app that many of VSON’s patients already use on their smartphones to prepare for and recover from knee surgery, Cafferky says the combination allows patients to more accurately gauge their success and set goals for themselves throughout their recovery.

“The smart knee appeared in the last six or months or so, and it’s a game-changer, especially for those who are super-into new technology,” Cafferky says. “It gives you real-time feedback on your recovery: your steps, your biometrics and range of motion.”



mymobility, he explains, still works very well as a tool for patients to understand the stages of their pre- and post-surgical progress, but it tends to simply provide passive information. The smart knee, equipped with a tiny RF-frequency transmitter, delivers data on strain, stride, strength and other biometric details to a HIPAA compliant cloud-based platform that can only be accessed by you and your healthcare team. It does not collect data on your location– Cafferky jokes that he cannot use the implant to see if you are at Wal-Mart. 

That data can be used to track recovery and help patients set goals for themselves. “But it can also point out other important issues,” he adds. “For example, it can tell us if the implant is not working because of infection, loosening of components or failure.”

The smart knee is a game-changer in healthcare. It gives you real-time feedback on your recovery: your steps, your biometrics and range of motion.
The smart knee is a game-changer in healthcare. It gives you real-time feedback on your recovery: your steps, your biometrics and range of motion.

While total joint surgery has become a very common procedure in recent years, Cafferky says VSON’s objective is better outcomes for everyone. Technology, such as the smart knee or the robotics systems he routinely uses in his surgical procedures, help him and VSON stay on the cutting edge of patient-focused care.

In the case of the new smart knee, Cafferky says the instantaneous nature of its digital feedback can be an invaluable tool to help patients monitor their progress and see how an active post-surgical regimen will contribute to their recovery.

“The implant software even uses predictive analysis and artificial intelligence to tell the patients that if they take 500 steps today, there’s a 90% chance of them being much improved in two months,” he notes. “It helps point out trends to help people stay on the right path, and it gives more patients the confidence in their care.”

Those affirmations are part of VSON’s overall objectives for its patients, and Cafferky says the interconnected tools represent another aspect of the organization’s mission  of helping patients comfortably and quickly return to their normal routines.

Cafferky admits the smart knee concept is not for everyone, but he says that patients who’ve embraced everything from self-driving cars to a range of home high-tech devices have been very excited by Persona IQ and other similar biotech looming on the horizon.

“This technology is sort of like a pacemaker for the knee, but we get to be connected to the patient every step of the way. This is how we get healthcare innovation.”

So far, Cafferky has had two patients implanted with the prosthetic, and plenty more signed up – of the 100 or so smart knee surgeries done in the US so far, most have been in Colorado, he says.

“New ideas like this generate more excitement, and as always, the goal is to help patients thrive, succeed and feel more engaged in their recovery.” 


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