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New robotic technology improves safety of spinal surgeries

A new technology that improves the safety and precision of spinal fusion surgeries while reducing the time required for the procedure is now available at Rush University Medical Center. Called the Mazor X Robotic Guidance Platform, the technology combines pre-surgical imaging and procedural image guidance, improving surgical planning and precision.

Spinal fusion is used to relieve pain and other symptoms for conditions such as tumors, fractures, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, and degenerative disc disease. During spinal fusion, the vertebrae (spine bones) fuse together, eliminating movement between the vertebrae.

An important and time-consuming component of correcting the deformity is correctly and securely placing the screws that connect the vertebrae into the spine. This system makes this part of the procedure more efficient and helps with correct placement of these screws."

Dr., assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Rush University Medical Center. Christopher DeWald

Rush is the first hospital in Chicago to use a robotic platform with an imaging component that provides a customized "plan" of a patient's spine and detailed locations for spinal screws. The robotic platform attaches to the operating room table as well as the patient and includes a robotic arm that helps guide the surgeon in placing the screws in the appropriate places.

"Because the robotic system makes screw placement more efficient, I can focus on different aspects of the procedure, such as deformity correction and nerve decompression. The entire surgery can be completed in less time," DeWald said.

Another benefit of robotic spinal fusion surgery is that it reduces radiation exposure of both the patient and the surgeon because the surgeon may rely less on X-ray imaging for guidance during surgery. The technology allows images taken during surgery to be matched with sub-millimeter accuracy to a computed tomography (CT) scan taken prior to the procedure. The robot can match the pre-operative CT scan with the patient's position during surgery.

“The robot arm snaps into place to help me place the screws according to the plan I created before surgery,” DeWald said. “This tool gives me the ability to optimize the screw size for each patient. The increased level of safety for the patient is always a primary focus and the reason for using tools and technologies like robots.”

DeWald is one of the first in his practice and one of the first in the country to use the Mazor X stealth version of the robotic system in spinal surgery. To date, he has performed more than a dozen procedures to correct spinal deformity procedures using this technology.

“My partners and I can use this technology for any procedure that requires screw placement or pre-operative planning for the patient's sagittal alignment. In addition to deformity correction, we can use the robot for degenerative lumbar fusions and fracture stabilization,” he said.

Other spine surgeons at Rush have also been trained to use Mazor robotic technology.

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