The idea of robot-assisted surgery certainly raises a number of questions, most notably by people who may be considering such a procedure. Below are answers to a few of the most common questions we receive about robot-assisted surgery, particularly as it relates to spinal procedures.
Is it safe?
While all surgical procedures carry some amount of risk, robot-assisted surgery is considered one of the safest options, even surpassing the safety levels of conventional freehand procedures. Robot-assisted surgery can improve safety in the following ways:
- More accurate placements than freehand surgeries
- Smaller incisions
- Reduced tissue damage
- Reduced risk of infection
- Reduced exposure to radiation
- Quicker recovery times
Does the robot perform the surgery?
No. The surgeon performs the procedure utilizing the robotic system, remaining in control and calling the shots the entire time. The robot doesn’t make movements on its own, but rather follows the surgeon’s commands. However, the robotic arm’s responses are far more precise than a surgeon’s hand alone.
What happens during robotic spine surgery?
On the day of your surgery, the surgeon begins by taking extensive imagery of your anatomy which will be used to create a guidance map. The exact size and placement of implants will be calculated, and the data input into the robotic system to generate an anatomical map and a patient plan. During the procedure, the robotic arm follows the map to the precise location where the incision is to be made and implants placed. The system makes real-time adjustments as needed, adapting to even small patient movements using GPS technology. The procedure is then performed to minute precision with a minimal amount of tissue damage or trauma. In most scenarios, the patient is ready to go home the same day.
What if the robot makes a mistake?
The margin of error with robot-assisted surgeries is actually significantly less than that of a freehand procedure. This is because calculations are made more precisely, and the robotic arm moves more steadily, than any human hand can do. For these reasons, the chances of a mistake are negligible, especially compared to conventional surgeries.
Is robot-assisted surgery an FDA-approved procedure?
Yes. Each type of robotic system used in surgical procedures is individually approved by the FDA for specific medical/surgical uses. The ExcelsiusGPS system used by Polaris was FDA-approved in August 2017.
Will my insurance cover the procedure?
As an approved method of minimally invasive surgery, robot-assisted surgery should be covered by most insurance plans that cover minimally invasive procedures. However, you should check with your insurance company beforehand to make sure this type of procedure is covered by your specific plan.
Who is a good candidate for robotic surgery?
Most patients requiring minimally invasive procedures will benefit from robot-assisted surgery. However, there may be extenuating reasons why your doctor may recommend freehand or open surgery in your case. Check with your doctor to see whether there are any reasons why he wouldn’t recommend you for the procedure.
If you don’t see your question listed here, we’re happy to answer it personally. For more information, call Polaris Spine and Neurosurgery Center today at 404-256-2633.