New Breakthrough in Image Guided Robotic Spine Surgery

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: October 30, 2017

Image Guided Robotic Surgery

Surgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital recently performed their first real-time, image guided robotic surgery to insert screws into a patient’s spine.

Dr. Nicholas Theodore, a professor of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and creator of the robot, said the device has the ability to not only improve patient safety, but reduce the time spent in surgery, which can help to reduce the risk of complications.

“This will take what we neurosurgeons do on a daily basis, elevate the art, enable us to do things much more precisely and allow us to perform our best every day,” said Dr. Theodore.

Why It’s Important

The biggest reason why image guided robotic spine surgery is so important is because it can eliminate one key component of surgery that can lead to problems. During a traditional laparoscopic procedure, the surgeon has to look back and forth between the patient and the feed being relayed on the television screen. Even though the surgeon attempts to remain still while changing his or her line of vision, oftentimes they’ll drift positions ever so slightly, and even the smallest movements during surgery can cause problems.

Think of when you’re driving a car and you quickly glance down to change the radio station or do something else on the dashboard. Although you know that you want to keep your hand stationary on the wheel so you can travel in a straight direction, oftentimes you’ll notice that you drifted slightly to the right while you moved your right arm in that direction. Similar drifting can happen during spine surgery when a surgeon looks to the left or the right to view the feed being transmitted from the camera.

The robotic device remains completely still until directed by the surgeon, so there is no accidental drift involved. This is extremely important when you’re inserting hardware into a person’s spine, because even the smallest movements can change the angle of the screws or the positioning of the device, which can compromise the integrity of the structure.

Preventing Imperfections

According to Dr. Theodore, about 20 percent of spinal screws are not inserted perfectly, but precision can be ensured using an image guided robotic surgical device. The robot works by interpreting a real time CT scan to read patient landmarks and ensure a surgeon has positioned hardware in precisely the correct location. The robot can even read and adjust to slight changes in body positioning that can be caused by breathing.

This isn’t the first image guided robotic device on the market, but it may be the most advanced, and Dr. Theodore believes it could be helpful in surgeries outside of the spine. Obviously he has a large stake in the success of the device, but it’s fascinating to see new innovations in the field of spine surgery. Hopefully the device is successful and becomes available to surgical centers across the United States so we can better help patients suffering from spine pain.

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