A PIONEERING surgeon who performed the world’s first computer-guided knee replacement 20 years ago today has compared the technology to satellite navigation.

Mr Fred Picard, an orthopaedic consultant at the Golden Jubilee hospital in Clydebank, said the technique is delivering more accurate surgery for patients and would become the norm over the next 20 years.

Scotland is already leading the way in the UK with three times as many full knee replacements performed using computer-assisted surgery than in England and Wales - around 15 per cent compared to less than five per cent south of the Border. More than half carried out at the Golden Jubilee are already done using computer-assisted surgery, but Mr Picard said he believed “all knee replacements” will be guided by computers within 20 years.

Mr Picard was the lead surgeon on the world’s first computer-assisted knee replacement 20 years ago when he carried out the procedure on a man in his 70s at a hospital in Grenoble, France, and joined the Golden Jubilee 12 years ago.

The computer plays a vital role in one of the most critical elements of a knee replacement procedure - the positioning of the implants.

The surgeon uses probes linked to a computer to map out specific areas of the body. This enables the surgeon to pinpoint exactly where cuts should be made and guides the patient’s new knee implant precisely into place.

Mr Picard said: “Using conventional instrumentation there is still a lot of guesswork based on the surgeon’s experience, whereas when you use the computer you can assess absolutely perfectly the leg deformity, the range of movements - you can assess exactly what you’re doing from the beginning to the end of the surgery.

“It’s very much like satnav in your car - you know where you are all the time and you know where you are going.”

The technique is used in around 40 per cent of knee surgeries in Germany and 25 per cent in Australia, where studies have shown it has significantly reduced errors compared to conventional surgery.

Mr Picard compared improvements in the technology over the past 20 years to “the difference between the first car and the types of car we were driving in the 1970s or 80s”.

He added: “We are not yet at the stage of the Ferrari but it’s getting there - we’re not too far off.”