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Exploring New Horizons in Spinal Treatment: Robot-Guided Spine Surgery

June 05, 2013 in News, Article, Operative Care,
Posted by Christopher R. Good


Photo Courtesy of Mazor Robotics

The goals of modern spinal surgery are to maximize patient function and accelerate a return to a full life.  As spinal surgery has evolved, more focus has been placed on minimizing trauma to the body during surgery and expediting a return to function through the use of minimally invasive techniques.  The era of modern spinal surgery has blossomed over the past 15 to 20 years as a result of scientific advancements including minimally invasive surgery, genetic testing, next generation spinal implants, stem cell research, and the use of biologic agents to promote spinal healing.

Robot-guided spinal surgery offers many potential advantages to patients and surgeons including improving the safety of minimally invasive as well as complex surgical procedures; improving the accuracy of spinal instrumentation; and minimizing the use of radiation during surgery.  Robot-guided spine surgery utilizes highly accurate, state-of-the-art technology for the treatment of many spinal conditions including degenerative spinal conditions, spine tumors, and spinal deformities.

How It Works:

The Mazor Robotics’ Renaissance system is one of the only robotic guidance products in the United States used for implanting devices during spine surgery.  The Mazor Robotics system allows the surgeon to use the images from a computerized tomography scan (CT scan) that is taken before surgery to create a blueprint for each surgical case.  The CT scan information is loaded into a computerized 3D planning system which allows the surgeon to plan the surgical procedure with a high degree of precision before ever entering the operating room.

In the operating room, the surgeon does all of the physical work of the surgery.  The robot-guidance system is a tool that helps to guide the surgeon’s instruments based on the highly accurate pre-operative planning of spinal implants placement.  During the surgery, the robot is placed near the patient either by attaching it to the bed or directly anchoring it to the spine of the patient.  The robot is approximately the size of a 12 oz beverage can with a small arm attached.  The robot has the ability to bend and rotate in order to place its arm on the spine in a very specific location and trajectory.  This ultra-precise guidance can improve the surgeon’s ability to safely place implants, particularly when working through very small incisions (minimally invasive surgery) or when dealing with complex anatomy (spinal deformity or previous spine surgery).

Types of Spinal Surgery That Benefit From Robot- Guidance:

  • Minimally Invasive Spine Fusion
  • Scoliosis Correction Surgery
  • Vertebroplasty
  • Spinal Biopsies

Patient Benefits:

Robot-guided spine surgery is a promising new technology that has many advantages and may allow surgeons to perform less invasive surgical procedures with smaller incisions, less bleeding, faster recovery, and shorter hospital stays.  Robot-guidance also can increase the accuracy and safety of surgical procedures and allow these procedures to be performed with less intra-operative radiation exposure to patients and health care providers.

Article was co-authored by Blair K. Snyder, PA-C

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