Robot Maps Spine to Help Surgeons
The SpineAssist at work.
CREDIT: Mazor Robotics
Robots have become an increasingly common sight in the operating room, but with almost 2,000 procedures under their collective belts, the SpineAssist may be one of the most active and most successful. The SpineAssist maps out a patient's spine in 3-D, allowing surgeons to plan exactly where to place pins or make incisions. Then, when it comes time to actually perform the surgery, the SpineAssist can guide the doctor's hand, helping them make the small cuts that allow for swift recovery.
The robot itself is a motorized rig that clamps on to a patient's back. After taking a picture of the spinal area in need of surgery, doctors use a computer to plan out the path of robot. The robot follows that path , precisely drilling into the patient's vertebrae. After the doctors plan out the routine for the robot, they're actually follow the robot's lead in the surgery .
Produced by the company Mazor Robotics, the SpineAssist is the only robot optimized specifically for spine surgery. According to a new paper in the journal Spine, the SpineAssist raises spine implant accuracy to 98 percent, and a recent presentation at a spinal surgery conference reported that SpineAssist reduces hospital stay times by a third. Talking to FastCompany.com, the president of Mazor described the device as a GPS system for spinal surgeons, allowing them to pinpoint exactly where to perform.
Of course, precision like that does not come cheap. The device costs $660,000, with an additional $66,000 every year for servicing. Plus, many of the implants that the SpineAssist works with are proprietary, and must be purchased from Mazor as well.
For a better idea of how the SpineAssist works, check out the video below.