Is Robotic Spine Surgery Better Than Traditional Surgery?

Dr. Steve Paragioudakis, MD

May 7, 2023

Dr. Steve Paragioudakis, MD

For many patients, spine surgery is a life-changing experience. This is especially true for those with complex spine conditions.

Neurosurgeons perform spine surgeries with a great deal of precision and care. However, spinal surgery can be long and tedious, putting neurosurgeons at risk for fatigue.

Robotic technology can help neurosurgeons achieve more accurate results with minimally invasive surgery and faster recovery times. Learn more about robotic spine surgery.

Minimally Invasive

Minimally invasive spine surgery (MIS) is a procedure that utilizes natural pathways within the body to perform functions that minimize risk and tissue trauma. It is used to correct spinal deformities and treat traumatic fractures.

MIS aims to stabilize the vertebral bones and reduce pressure on nerves that lead to back pain. In addition, these procedures can reduce the need for secondary surgeries, such as fusions and herniated disc replacements.

During MIS, surgeons use wires called catheters to bypass skin and muscle tissue with minimal cutting. They can be inserted through tubular retraction or by inserting a special needle into the soft tissue in the muscle.

Robotics also make it easier to perform percutaneous placement of screws and rods for stabilization, which reduces damage to surrounding tissue and improves outcomes. This can be particularly important in cases where the spinal column is unstable. It can also help reduce recovery time because there is less trauma to the back and neck.

More Accurate

Robotic guidance in spine surgery is an effective way to improve accuracy and reduce radiation exposure during procedures. This is because robotics use 3D imaging to help your surgeon map out the process and then guide the arm to place implants throughout the spine.

These systems can also provide more accurate screw placement, especially in complex anatomy and small spaces. This can lead to better outcomes for patients while also reducing the stress on the surgeon’s hands.

Several computer-assisted navigation systems use CT-based software to generate a spinal map and then provide the surgeon with a guided path for screw placement. These systems have been shown to provide a greater degree of accuracy than free-hand screw placement and less radiation exposure compared to other methods of screw placement.

Less Painful

One of the most essential benefits of robotic spine surgery is that it is less painful. The robot’s ability to control small tools in precise movements reduces the risk of injury to patients’ nerves and other tissues.

Another benefit of robotic guidance is that it minimizes radiation exposure to surgeons and patients during spinal surgeries. This is because automated surgical systems use neuronavigation software to position instruments accurately without exposing patients to unnecessary radiation.

Fortunately, robotic spine surgery is becoming increasingly popular with orthopedic surgeons and patients alike. The technology has many advantages, including increased accuracy, decreased blood loss, and fewer complications.

M Health Fairview neurosurgeon Matthew Hunt, MD, FRCS, FAANS, helped 76-year-old Judy Kerry relieve her debilitating back pain using a new robotic surgical system. The system has a long track record of providing successful results and reduced patient discomfort.

Shorter Recovery

Compared to traditional surgery, which involves a large incision that affects the surrounding tissues, the recovery time for robotic spine surgery is significantly less. Most patients can return home within 24 hours of their procedure and feel relief immediately.

Robots allow surgeons to perform repetitive tasks with greater accuracy and efficiency than their hands could accomplish. They also minimize the need for X-rays during the procedure, reducing radiation exposure to the patient and surgical staff.

A multicenter study examined outcomes in 406 thoracolumbar robot-assisted spine surgery patients between 2011 and 2016. Intraoperative complications included screw breach (3.4%), robot abandonment for unreachable anatomy or registration issues, and return to the operating room for screw removal and exchange.