There’s a lot of chatter and excitement in the medical community these days about robotic spine surgery. Touted as a major medical advance in our field, robotics has the potential to significantly change the way many spinal surgeons perform procedures. However, given that this technology is relatively new, many patients have questions about it — whether it is safe, what makes it advantageous, etc. Let’s pull back the veil on this topic and look at 9 things patients need to know about robotic spine surgery.
A robotic arm can act with remarkably greater precision than a human hand, even the hands of a skilled surgeon. A recent study of robotic-assisted implant procedures showed an overall accuracy rate of 98.3 percent, compared to 91 percent of the same procedures performed manually. As the technology continues to improve, the accuracy rates are expected to increase even more.
While many spinal procedures are now considered minimally invasive, the accuracy of robotics allows these incisions and intrusions to be made even smaller — adding up to less physical disruption and trauma. Patients usually go home the same day with minimal pain afterward.
The most common risk in surgical procedures is the risk of infection. The smaller incisions made by robotic assistance means less opportunity for harmful bacteria to enter the body and cause infection.
Even with the most skilled surgeons at the helm, spinal procedures that are performed manually usually cause at least minimal damage to surrounding muscles and tissues that aren’t directly related to the injury site. This damage typically heals normally, but it can increase pain and take more time to heal. Robotic spine surgery all but eliminates this factor because incisions are made with great accuracy.
Conventional procedures often require the use of interoperative fluoroscopy — effectively a continuous beam of X-ray radiation to help the surgeon see what he is doing. Robotic spine surgery greatly reduces the need for fluoroscopy, exposing both the patient and the staff to less radiation.
Another effect of improved accuracy and less trauma is that the patient’s recovery time is significantly diminished with robotic-assisted surgery. Patients are able to return home with less pain and get back to their daily routines more quickly.
Polaris uses an advanced robotic system called ExcelsiusGPS — the first of its kind in the Southeast and only the second in use nationwide. This system utilizes an advanced navigation system similar to GPS satellite technology to anticipate and adapt to the patient’s movements during the procedure. With this ability to recalculate in real time, the robotic system enables the surgeon to perform the procedure with even more accuracy and less risk of mistakes.
One common misconception with robotic surgery is that the patient’s well-being is somehow in the hands of a machine. This is not true. The surgeon is in control of the procedure 100 percent of the time, and the robotic system is simply a tool utilized to perform the procedure more precisely. We encourage patients to think of it as an extension of the surgeon’s hand — one that helps the surgeon perform with far less human error than a human hand alone.
All of the factors above — greater accuracy, reduced risk of infection, faster recovery times, etc. — add up to the inevitable conclusion that robotic spine surgery is a safer method to perform these procedures than conventional methods, greatly increasing the rate of positive outcomes for the patient.
Even with this information, many patients have further questions about whether robotic spine surgery is right for them. We’re happy to help. To learn more, call Polaris Spine and Neurosurgery Center today at 404-256-2633.