Neil Dickinson - Dice

Me, My Knee, & The Robot


by Neil | 23 Dec Read Time1 min

About the writer: Neil Dickinson is Senior Science Writer at Dice. Neil has been involved in the pharmaceutical industry for nearly 40 years, working with all the major companies and across dozens of famous brands. The views presented in this article are his alone and are based on his personal experiences throughout his career.


I had to have a partial knee replacement during the year and my experiences were a distillation of modern inventions made real.

Firstly, 3D printing. When this first came into the public domain, I couldn’t really grasp its utility. It seemed a clever idea but it was hard to imagine any practical applications. How wrong was I?

A CAT scan of my knee was sent to a US company who would produce a 3D model of my knee joint from which a made-to-measure prosthesis could be manufactured.

Secondly, robotic arm surgery. Of course the surgeon still holds the scalpel and the saw, but the robot dictates EXACTLY how much bone to excise for the perfect fitting of the new joint – down to fractions of a millimetre. 

All of which means, nine weeks post-op, I’m close to being back to normal. But of course huge thanks must also be extended to my surgeon Mr Nick Morgan, who was great throughout.

It’s another example, as if we needed one, of how lucky humans of today are in terms of the amazing healthcare at our disposal. I shudder to think about what it must have been like to have lived in the era before anaesthesia, antiseptics and vaccines.

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