Robotic Surgery is a Horse of a Different Color

Laura Byers with horse

Summer is looking up for Laura Byers, 55, a horse enthusiast and dog obedience trainer who depends on strong knees to do the work she loves the most. “Animals have always been a part of my life,” says Laura.

“What little girl doesn’t dream of riding her own horse?” In her adult life, Laura is living her dreams. She owns three horses, boards others for friends at her farmette near Erie, IL, and has enjoyed a 30-year career showing dogs and practicing as a dog behaviorist for clients.

Her physically active careers did take their toll on her knee joints. Over time, arthritis, joint degeneration, and bone-on-bone pain interfered and limited her ability to work. It was inevitable that Laura would eventually undergo two knee replacements to end the pain, yet each knee replacement surgery, performed over a period of 18 months, was a completely different experience.

Dr. Ryan Pokorney, ORA Orthopedics
Dr. Ryan Pokorney, ORA Orthopedics

In 2019, her first knee was replaced in a traditional total knee procedure that, in her case, included a four-day hospitalization, months of rehab, and nearly a year of regaining her strength and function. Fast forward to the spring of 2021, and Laura was asked to be the first patient in the Quad Cities to undergo total knee replacement robotic-assisted surgery using the new Zimmer Biomet ROSA® Knee System (ROSA).

Fellowship-Trained Joint Replacement Surgeon, Dr. Ryan Pokorney, ORA Orthopedics, performed the surgery. To say Laura’s experience on her second knee was an improvement would be an understatement.

“It’s been three weeks since the robotic surgery and I’m doing fantastic, way better than the first time. I was even up walking the same day. After my first surgery, it was so painful I couldn’t walk and was still in a wheelchair at this point in my recovery.

“This spring, I even took off work for three months, just in case I had experienced the same lengthy rehab as before. But so far, it’s really been a ‘cakewalk’ in comparison! I only stayed one night at Genesis Hospital instead of four nights. I have experienced significantly less pain and have better mobility. It’s just a huge difference. I’ve already gone back to work, which is amazing to me.”

first assisted-robotic total knee surgery in the Quad Cities
Dr. Ryan Pokorney, ORA Orthopedics, performs the first assisted-robotic total knee surgery in the Quad Cities using the Zimmer Biomet ROSA® Knee System (ROSA) at Genesis Hospital, Davenport, Iowa.

Dr. Pokorney explains, that because every person’s knee joint is unique, each surgery is a custom fit. “ROSA functions like a high-tech GPS system. I use its optical trackers and cameras to determine the exact position of the knee in space.

“Throughout the procedure, the robot provides a real-time view of the knee to ensure accuracy and precision in the placement of the implant and to ensure optimal knee motion.

“Aligning the knee to a patient’s distinctive anatomy that optimizes flexibility, natural motion, and strength is the art of total knee replacement surgery.

Laura Byers
Laura Byers, Erie, IL, is looking forward to a summer riding Cash, following successful robotic-assisted total knee replacement surgery.

“I view this as an enhanced tool and a viable option for our patients. Every case and every knee is different, so together in partnership with our patients, we consider the best total-joint treatment plan for each person. It’s important to remember that total joint surgeons are trained to perform successful surgeries with or without robotic assistance, but at ORA, any tool that helps patients return to their lives quickly and with minimal pain is always worth considering.

“In Laura’s case, ROSA was the right call. Her outcome and post-operative recovery is exactly what we expect to see in ORA’s total joint-replacement cases.”

For Laura, thrilled with her progress after only a month, her success is measured not only in the wonders of high-tech orthopedic medicine, but in regaining her natural ability to joyfully ride her horse, Cash, all summer long.

To learn more about robotic joint-replacement options at ORA, visit us at