The benefits of robotic assisted joint replacement surgery are well accepted at this point. We know that patients can have a surgery that corresponds to their anatomy and give them an outcome that is consistently successful. Starting this month, we can now say the same about spine surgery.
Spinal fusion is a procedure that is performed when a patient has a spine that is misaligned and causing nerve impingement that creates leg pain. It is also utilized for patients with scoliosis, or in folks who have spinal stenosis in areas of their spine that once removed to relieve the nerve pressure, creates an unstable spine. Fusion surgery intends to created stability of the spine by using screws, rods and spacers called cages. Until recently, surgeons could only rely on their knowledge of anatomy and fluoroscopy machines that emit significant radiation but make surgery safer. Spine surgery has offered high rates of success to alleviate buttock and leg pain (not the same story for back pain unfortunately), however, we all have thought: there has to be a better way. We need more accuracy. We need less radiation to patients and operating room staff. We need a tool that cam make less invasive surgical options safer and more accessible to patients.
Enter the Globus Excellus GPS, a robotic assisted arm that allows surgeons to preoperatively plan for the metal implants we place in fusion surgery (something many of us already do!) and precisely execute that plan with the assistance of a robotic arm. I am still placing the screws, but I have a “real-time” image that allows me to have a 3D picture of where these are being placed. Spine navigation platforms have offered this view in the past, but do not allow the surgeon to execute a pre-op plan. Navigation requires the surgeon to figure things out on “the-fly.” The Excellus GPS allows me to focus on the patient because I have taken the time before the surgery to create a plan based on the patient’s individual anatomy.
And No, we have not reached the point where a robot can perform surgery on you like the one at the end of The Empire Strikes Back when Luke Skywalker got a new hand. But this new tool allows us to make spine surgery safer, more accurate and make recovery from spine procedures less painful. I am proud to offer this option to my patients and excited to help advance the field of robotic spine surgery.