When you’re told you need surgery, there’s a natural reaction of concern. A lot comes with having a surgical procedure, after all, and the worries are numerous. One thing that can provide additional comfort, though, is the phrase “minimally invasive.” When you hear it, there’s a bit of relief – a realization that maybe this won’t be so bad because it could definitely be worse. “Minimally invasive” is definitely a welcome phrase when it comes to spine surgery. Blount Memorial Hospital recently became the first in the region to offer a robotic guidance system for minimally invasive spine surgery. The state-of-the-art Mazor X system enhances precision and helps improve outcomes by serving as a “helping hand” to surgeons.
“Currently, the Mazor robot only is used for precise placement of screws in the low back, which is an integral part of spinal fusion surgery [where screws commonly serve as stabilizers],” said Blount Memorial board-certified neurosurgeon Dr. Edward Akeyson. “Before surgery, the screw trajectories are planned on a computer workstation using 3D planning software. This allows the surgeon to check the accuracy of the trajectories in three dimensions before the patient is in the operating room, ensuring the screw placements are safe and in the desired part of the vertebrae,” Akeyson explained.
With the placement plan formulated and approved on the computer workstation, it’s time for surgery. The robotic arm, which is programmed to execute the plan, guides the surgeon to exactly where screws need to be placed or a wire needs to be inserted during a procedure. While the robotic arm’s guidance enhances precision, Akeyson is quick to point out that the surgeon – not the robot – performs the actual operation.
For patients undergoing minimally invasive spine surgery, the potential benefits of the new robotic guidance system include less time spent in the operating room, faster recovery times, less pain, increased safety and decreased radiation exposure compared to traditional back surgery. Neurosurgeons can use the robot in procedures to treat conditions such as degenerative disc disease, scoliosis or curvatures of the spine, herniated discs, stenosis and vertebral fractures. In the future, Akeyson says, there likely will be applications for use in placing screws in the neck and for releasing pressure on pinched nerves and/or the spinal cord.
“The Mazor X robot is a major advance in minimally invasive spine surgery,” Akeyson said. “We are very fortunate to have this robotic guidance system at Blount Memorial, as only a minority of hospitals in the United States have this technology available to them,” he added.
To find out if you are a candidate for robotic-assisted spine surgery at Blount Memorial, call 865-984-3864 or click here for more information.