The use of real-time images in spine procedures isn’t entirely new. This technology has already been used during many minimally invasive procedures. However, researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital have recently developed the ability to perform image-guided robotic surgery to do things like insert screws into a patient’s spine with incredible accuracy. A breakthrough in technology of this nature could reduce the duration of surgery times and minimize risks to patients.
How Image-Guided Devices Minimize Human Error
Normally, pedicle screw placement must be done manually. During a typical laparoscopic procedure, a Los Angeles spine surgeon will glance back and forth between the monitor in the operating room and the patient to place screws and other hardware. Skilled surgeons attempt to maintain a steady hand. However, screw placement can sometimes be difficult if the affected part of the spine is difficult to reach or obstructed by bones and soft tissues.
According to one estimate, around 20 percent of spinal screws may not be placed properly. Accurate placement of hardware is even more challenging when multiple levels of the spine are involved. If screw placement is off, even slightly, it may result in:
- Excessive motion that causes a fusion not to form
- Damage to adjacent nerves, bones, or joints of the spine
- Screws coming loose during normal movements after surgery
What the Robotic Device Does
The robotic system used for the spine surgery performed at Johns Hopkins is designed to make very precise movements. However, the device does not act independently. It is directed by a spine surgeon, and it prevents the accidental drift that sometimes occurs from constant glances back and forth between the patient and the monitor or normal human hand movements.
How the Technology Behind It Works
Robotic devices were first used during minimally invasive spine procedures in the mid-2000s. The system used by spine surgeons at Johns Hopkins is unique because it may be the most advanced robotic device to have practical applications for the more detailed aspects of spine surgery, such as screw placement. The robot works with input from real-time CT scans that let the system know precisely where the screws need to be placed. The detection is so precise that it can self-adjust for changes in position caused by the patient’s breathing.
Fusion surgery is the most frequently performed type of spine surgery in the United States. While it does have a high success rate, there has always been the possibility of screw placement issues, which is a concern scientists and researchers have long been aware of. In fact, developing a robotic-assisted system for fusion surgery has been a goal for more than a decade. One version of a system created for this purpose was first tested in 2006. The recent accomplishments of the surgeons at Johns Hopkins shows this technology has advanced to the point where it may soon become more accessible to patients who need minimally invasive back surgery. Los Angeles residents can rely on the expert surgeons at The Spine Institute to implement the most up-to-date and effective methods for alleviating chronic spine-related pain. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment, please call our office today at 310-828-7757.