Advances in technology have made spine surgery less invasive thanks to techniques that allow for smaller incisions and less disruption to nearby tissues and nerves. Robotic-assisted surgery is a related type of technology that has reduced the risk of human error when placing screws and other hardware. Even so, there’s still the possibility of placement issues due to irregularities with bones and other structures robots can’t always adjust for. Swiss researchers have developed new sensor technology that may make robot-assisted spine surgery even safer.
What Is Sensor-Enabled Technology?
The sensor-enabled surgical technology developed by medical researchers in Switzerland provides real-time data to lend a helping hand to the robotic devices controlled by spine surgeons. The data that comes directly from the patient during the procedure is used to create a 3D sensor map.
How Does It Work?
The real-time info in the sensor map allows the robotic-manipulated drill to adjust for changes in the structure of the bone. The drill is then able to avoid obstacles, including irregularities with vertebrae, and work around nerves and tissues with greater accuracy. The new technology complements other methods used to help with surgical accuracy, such as electromyography neuromonitoring, which is used to monitor neural structures in the spine.
How Does Sensor Technology Help Patients?
A Los Angeles spine surgeon will use the information to determine if the correct size hardware is being used and if it’s set to be placed in the right location at the right angle. For patients having a stabilization procedure, the added guidance could reduce the risk of experiencing post-surgery issues with hardware that slips out of place or a fusion that doesn’t form because of hardware issues. Seeing exactly where the drill is at all times also allows the surgeon to shut down and reposition it faster than what could be done during a traditional operation. Patients may also benefit from:
- Fewer instances of failed spine surgery
- Less risk of damage affecting nearby areas of the spine from added pressure due to misplaced hardware
- Reduced risk of infection, inflammation, or nerve irritation
Why Is Hardware Placement Important?
The purpose of spinal hardware is to provide immediate stability to the spine when it has become weakened, as may be the case when a herniated disc is removed. With fusion surgery, spinal hardware will no longer be needed once bone graft material fuses vertebrae together. However, it maintains the spine’s stability until this happens. Whether it’s meant to temporarily or permanently stabilize the spine, hardware is only effective if it’s placed correctly. For instance, with pedicle screws, even a difference of a fraction of an inch can throw off hardware placement.
Innovations like sensor-enabled surgical robotic technology are increasing success rates with spine stabilization procedures. Even so, the best technology in the world won’t relieve symptoms if the true source of the issue isn’t being addressed, which is why it’s equally important to get an accurate diagnosis and consider opinions from more than one spine specialist or surgeon before deciding to get spinal fusion surgery. Los Angeles patients can reach out to The Spine Institute at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.