Health Watch: Robotic Spine Surgery

In spinal fusions, screws are placed into bones to create an internal cast so that regrowth can occur. There are risks including neurological damage-like paralysis and injury to the spinal column. But a new system is making spine surgery faster, safer and better!

Jack Stone had a pinched nerve in his leg for four years but didn't let it stop him from living an active lifestyle. Until one day...

"The scariest thing was when my right leg would go completely numb, very unsettling," Stone said.

He knew it was time to get help: "I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to live the next however many years I've got, 20 or 25 or 30 years in that physical condition."

Stone became one of the first patients in Chicago to undergo spine surgery with new robotic technology. Standard spine surgery requires more time and radiation.

"Each time we're taking an x-ray to make sure we like where the position is of the of the probe. And then we take an x-ray before we put the screw and then we take another x-ray to make sure the screw is in the right location. And that's a lot of extra radiation not only to the surgeon. But to the patient," said Christopher J. DeWald, MD, Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, Assistant Professor, Director, Section of Spinal Deformity at Rush University Medical Center.

Instead, the Mazor X system creates a blueprint of the patient's spine and a robotic arm guides the surgeon as they place screws into the spine. This allows for less radiation, saved time, lower costs, increased safety, and more efficient placement of screws.

"To me, it's a homerun," said Dr. DeWald.

Stone's surgery was a success: "I'm really pleased with the outcome, that's the biggest thing. The numbness has gone away, what pain I had has completely gone away," Stone said.

And he's ready to get back to his active lifestyle.

The Mazor X system works by matching a CAT scan of the spine with an x-ray, so surgeons can plan placement of the screws on the cat scan ahead of time. Doctor DeWald says the technology is great for both minimally invasive and more involved surgeries, such as spinal deformity. He is the first in his practice and among the first in the Midwest to use the system.
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