The case for robotic spine surgery: Will it go mainstream?
Written by Laura Dyrda
The number of spine surgeons using robotic technology across the United States is growing. There is only one FDA-approved robotic spine surgery system — the Mazor Renaissance robotic system — which aims to improve pedicle screw placement accuracy.
“The accuracy is great for the patients and the operating room staff, and it limits the radiation exposure,” says Jae Lim, MD, of Atlantic Brain and Spine in Fairfax, Va. “Without robotic guidance you are using a lot of intraoperative X-rays which adds up over time for the OR staff. Minimally invasive procedures without the robot depend on fluoroscopy, but you can’t see the open landmarks. With the robotic technology, once you have your trajectory set, it’s not hard to look and see that position.”
The robotic technology eliminates the need for intraoperative CT scans or X-rays, and the technology allows surgeons to preplan the procedure using a three-dimensional model of the patient’s anatomy.
“It’s almost like a simulator,” says Dr. Lim. “This minimizes the complications and speeds up the surgery because you aren’t second guessing yourself about whether the procedure is right. You also remove the time it takes to position the patient and take images.”
Despite the advantages Dr. Lim has seen in his practice, there is one major drawback to incorporating this technology more widely: the cost. Hospitals have smaller equipment budgets today than in the past and many initiatives focus on reducing waste. Resource managers will only spend on technology that has significant clinical or cost benefits for the hospital.