Robot Assists During Spinal Surgery

02.12.2018 06:27:03

Since the end of October, the operations at the vertebrology center of the Bonifatius-HospitalsLingen Clinic have been performed assisted by a robotic auxiliary navigation system. This system is one of the first systems of this kind in Europe. In the future it is to improve the safety and accuracy of spinal surgery.

During spinal surgery, screws are often placed in the vertebrae to stabilize the spine. They are usually placed by a surgeon who has to take a lot of X-rays for orientation during surgery. The new robotic system allows the surgeon to plan the placement of these screws just before the operation.

First, by using computed tomography the surgeon takes images of the spine to virtually place the screws in these images. Based on this layout plan, the manipulator points to the exact place where the screw should be installed. Then the surgeon can make an incision and install a real screw.

The company that developed this system is Globus Medical based in Pennsylvania, the USA. The promulgation of the new navigation system called ExcelsiusGPS was preceded by years of research. “It gives the surgeon more confidence,” explains Lucy Newman, clinical specialist and spokesperson for Globus Medical. “It always knows exactly where to place the screw.”

Significantly Fewer X-ray Images

Along with the increased accuracy during surgery, the number of X-ray images is to significantly decrease. It reduces the radiation dose of both the patient and the medical staff. Whether the new technique will also shorten the operation time is still unknown. “The actual screw placement location can be found faster, but planning and preparation, depending on the experience of the staff, may take more time,” explains Newman.

Head of the Department of Neurosurgery, Professor Dr. Peter Douglas Klassen seems optimistic. According to him, after 10 days of operating with the help of the robot, the standard operation takes as much time as in the case of the traditional method. For a successful switch over to the new technique, it is important to carry the entire operating team with you. Besides, a lot of time, according to Dr. Klassen, was spent on staff training and practical training operations.

The robotic auxiliary navigation system installed at the Bonifatius-Hospital Clinic is one of the three such systems in Europe. “At the Bonifatius-Hospital, we try to keep up with the time, both medically and technically,” says the head of the clinic, Martin Dick. Since the very beginning, there has been inspiration not only from better treatment of patients, but also from the idea of becoming one of the first hospitals in Germany in which spinal surgery is performed with the support of a robot.

Dr. Klassen shares this point of view, “I’m sure that only by using high technology it’s really possible to maintain a high level of quality of treatment for a long time.” The task to really meet this requirement has been set before the clinic which is a certified vertebrology center in Emsland.

Despite the fact that today robotics is almost not common in surgery, it is believed that this technology has received its recognition in the operating room. “I am convinced that in 5-10 years it will be absolutely normal to use robots in surgery,” says Newman, assessing the future development of technology and medicine.

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