Spine surgeons were far from the first specialists to explore the use of robotics. Other fields – including general surgery, urology, and gynecology – have already widely adopted robotic surgery as part of everyday practice. However, along with an emphasis on increasing patient safety and improving patient outcomes comes a growing interest in robotics for spine surgery – not just the current state of the art, but also the advancements to come.
In The Beginning
The first-ever spine robot – the SpineAssist – received FDA approval in 2004, according to a recent report in Robotic Surgery. Overall, robotics in spine surgery has the capability of providing real-time intraoperative navigation and rigid stereotaxy, potentially increasing accuracy as it decreases radiation exposure, complication rates, operative time, and recovery time, according to this overview. “That’s the promise,” say the authors, including Anand Veeravagu, MD, director of Minimally Invasive NeuroSpine Surgery at Stanford University Hospitals and Clinics.
Currently, robotics in spine surgery is mainly limited to spinal fusion and instrumentation procedures, according to Dr. Veeravagu and his colleagues. But the expectation is that robotics will be used in increasingly complex procedures such as spinal tumor resections, ablation, vertebroplasties, and deformity correction.
Is Robotic Spine Surgery Accepted by Surgeons?
What percent of spine surgeons use robotics? “I have not seen any published numbers on the percentage of spine surgeons who use robotic surgical systems, but I would estimate that it is currently less than 10% overall,” says Todd Lanman, MD, a neurosurgeon in Beverly Hills, CA, known for his use of robotics. “At our institution the rate is about 30%.” The use of robotic spine surgery has been increasing, however – slowly but steadily over the past decade, Dr. Lanman says.