Waikato surgical ‘first’ benefits Kiwis

By Mike Blake
Waikato Business News


Public and private health providers have combined for what is believed to be the first time in New Zealand in carrying out a surgical demonstration of an elbow replacement.

The demonstration was carried out on Tuesday at Braemar Hospital’s digital operating room, where it was live-streamed to a dozen surgeons and medical staff.

Elbow replacements are rare in New Zealand.

They are usually performed on patients with rheumatoid arthritis but they have become less frequent due to advances in rheumatoid medication.

However they still need to be performed on occasion and they are difficult and technically demanding procedures.

Sydney-based surgeon Jeff Hughes performed the operation helped by Waikato surgeons Thin Hong, Chris O’Meeghan and Sandeep Patel.

The patient, 66, had severe and very painful arthritis of his elbow.

Mr Hughes is a leading Australian orthopaedic surgeon, specialising in elbow and shoulder reconstruction.

He helped design the Zimmer-Nexel elbow prosthetic, which was used in the operation.

The prosthetic has been used only twice in New Zealand since it received FDA approval last year.

Total elbow replacement is a rare procedure worldwide.

In the UK, with a population of 64 million, only 750 procedures were carried out between 2010 and 2014.

The operation is technically difficult because the elbow is a complex joint that moves in many directions and bears a high load.

An elbow replacement – or implant – is generally carried out because of pain that can’t be controlled by other methods such as painkillers, physiotherapy or other surgery.

The most common cause of pain is inflammatory arthritis, where damage has been caused to the bone and cartilage.

In elbow replacement surgery, the painful surfaces of the damaged elbow are replaced with artificial elbow parts.

One part fits into the humerus (upper arm), and the other part fits into the ulna (forearm).

The two parts are then connected and held together by a locking pin.

The resulting hinge allows the elbow to bend.

The operation can bring relief from pain and greater mobility.

Braemar chief executive Paul Bennett said the co-operative approach between Braemar and Waikato Hospital benefitted patients.

“We are extremely grateful for the contributions made by everyone involved in this event, especially to Mr Hughes for travelling from Australia to demonstrate the surgery to his New Zealand colleagues, and to Waikato Hospital.

It goes to show just what can be achieved when the public and private sectors work together.”