The first robotic surgical device to be approved by the FDA for spine surgery is in use in a few hospitals around the world. Surgeons at the Texas Back Institute, and 24 other hospitals internationally, are now performing spine surgery with the assistance of robotic guidance. The SpineAssist device is the only surgical robot designed to operate on the spine, although it is expected to also be approved for brain surgery.
This surgical device was developed by doctors from the Texas Back Institute and Technion University in Haifa, Israel. Twenty-five hospitals are currently using the device, three in the United States along with others in Israel, Germany, Switzerland and Russia.
The SpineAssist device was designed with the goal of increasing precision during surgery while reducing radiation exposure and time of the surgery. These surgical enhancements should bring higher success rates for surgery and less risk for complications. The device is being used for surgeries where implants are attached to the spine (e.g. spinal fusion, correcting scoliosis).
A goal of the device is to reduce the number of CT scans that are needed during surgery. During normal surgeries involving implants, CT scans are used to guide and confirm the location of each implant. With the SpineAssist, implant guidance and locations are known, so CT scans are less necessary. A previous study of radiation used during surgery showed ninety-eight percent reduction in radiation used during surgery from CT scans with the SpineAssist.
The other finding from that study was that the robotic device was more accurate in placing implants than surgeons making the placement using freehand techniques. Correct placement has a significant effect on successful outcome rates. The device guides the placement of implants and the surgeon places and attaches them to the spine manually.
The final goal of the SpineAssist device is to allow surgeons to practice and plan their surgery with in a 3D model. The model is based on the initial CT scan and allowing the surgeons to practice the procedure is intended to reduce surgery times, especially for longer, more complicated procedures.
Robotic technology has become commonplace as a surgical aide in many fields and now is available for spinal surgery, with more hospitals acquiring this equipment each month.