How Does Robotic Spine Surgery Work?

The use of robots in surgery might be one of the most exciting medical innovations of our time — and yet many patients are unaware of the benefits or are concerned about the outcomes. Let’s alleviate some of these concerns by discussing how robotic spine surgery works, as well as what to expect and illuminate what does (and does not) happen.

The Use of Robots in Surgery

The primary purpose of using robotic arms in surgery is not to supplant the skills of the surgeon, but rather to complement them. The overarching goal is accuracy. Through the use of mapping technology, robots like the Excelsius GPSTM calculate the precise surgical site, then guide the surgeon to that exact site on the patient’s body for placement of the implant or instrument. In the case of spinal surgery where precision is critical, the robotic arm ensures placement at a rate of accuracy — one that surpasses that of even the most skilled surgeons working by hand. In other words, mistakes are far less likely with robotic spine surgery, not more likely.

At Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center, we use an advanced robotic system called Excelsius GPSTM, improves surgical accuracy with the use of GPS technology. We are the first outpatient facility to offer this system in the Southeast (and the second nationwide). Excelsius GPSTM not only maps the patient’s anatomy with incredible precision but also adapts to patient movements during the procedure, providing real-time guidance to the surgeon not unlike the way a GPS works in your vehicle.

The results?

Overview of the Robotic Surgery Process

What does robotic spine surgery actually look like? Let’s break down the process.

Initial imaging

On the day of your procedure, the surgeon will capture medical imaging of your anatomy from which the robot can create a map for guidance. These images are used to identify the exact size and placement of implants. The surgeon uploads the images into the robotic system to create an anatomical map and generate a patient plan for the procedure.

During the procedure

Through the use of GPS technology based on the patient map that was created, the rigid robotic arm is guided along a pathway to the precise region of the spine where the placement is to occur. The surgeon receives continuous real-time feedback, visualization and guidance through an on-screen monitor as the robot adapts to the slightest patient movements during the process — even natural movements caused by breathing. In this way, the surgeon is able to perform the procedure with a minimal amount of tissue damage and trauma at the surgery site.

After surgery

While just a few years ago most spinal procedures required a hospital stay, most robotic spine surgery procedures can be performed on an outpatient basis. Under normal circumstances, the patient goes through a brief recovery period and observation after the procedure then may be released to go home the same day.

Is Robotic Spine Surgery for Everyone?

No, it isn’t. There are many factors for you and your surgeon to consider, including your current health, your prior responsiveness to non-surgical forms of treatment and other factors. Even with the enhanced accuracy of robotic technology, any surgery is still somewhat invasive and therefore carries some level of risk. Surgery should still be considered only when non-surgical alternatives are exhausted. However, if you have been unresponsive to non-surgical treatments, robotic spine surgery represents one of the safest and most accurate approaches to surgery available in healthcare today. Talk to your spine surgeon to discuss your options.

To learn more about Excelsius GPSTM technology and determine whether you are a good candidate for spine surgery, call Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center at 404-256-2633.

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