Mr Keat Ooi Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon

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6 min read

New spine surgery technology and an Australian first!

Febuary 2024

In this article Keat Ooi discusses his experiences using a brand new example of spine surgery technology.

Keat Ooi and the team trained in new spine surgery technology

An Australian First

Last December, I had the pleasure of performing a unique procedure.

Specifically, the case was a lumbar spinal fusion. Nothing new there; I have performed this surgery many times before. However, this time was different as I did it with the help of robotic guidance and AI technology!

Using my surgery plan and with assistance from Dr. Nathan Anderson, we successfully executed the procedure at Warringal Private Hospital. It was the first time these two technologies were used together in Australia. 

A LinkedIn article showcasing the team trained in new spine surgery technology
Keat Ooi and the team trained in new UNiD spine surgery technology

Yes, I love talking about the benefits of robotic technology in spinal surgery. Once I start, I can’t stop!

Nevertheless, this experience marked my first use of AI software to help plan a procedure and to use patient specific rods to achieve the plan..

You might feel bombarded with news about AI lately, and after a while, it all starts to sound like marketing hype. Nonetheless I do foresee great potential that these technologies may offer in the future.

Here's how it works:

I have already written about robotic assisted surgery here. However, the new aspect incorporates unique software that helps plan the procedure and design the implants.

This AI software has been trained on the data from thousands of spinal procedures, a process known as machine learning. It uses this data to help plan the operation.

During the planning stage for any procedure, I order various scans of the patient’s spine.

A scan taken with UNiD AI technology for spine surgery

With this system, I provide software engineers with these scans, including my strategy and preferences for the procedure. 

Subsequently, the software generates predictive models, allowing me to visualise the hardware placement during surgery and how it will behave after surgery (post-op). 

One such piece of crucial hardware is the spinal rod. I plan to write an in-depth article all about spinal rods. But for now, the short explanation is that these rods are placed along each side of the spine and attached to the vertebral bodies to help keep the spine straight.

Spinal Rods created using a new type of spine surgery technology
An example of custom spinal rods created using AI technology

The AI software helps plan the placement of these rods and further to that, it creates a custom rod for each patient based on the data I provide.

The rod is then industrially produced in a lab for the highest level of control.

A colourful stylised illustration of a human spine

The benefits:

Typically, there is some bending of the rod during surgery to custom-fit the patient’s anatomy. This allows us to plan the amount of correction required as part of surgical planning. The software and customised rods help reproduce the desired alignment and outcome.

This new technology uses AI to manufacture a better rod so that by the time it arrives at my operating table, it is already a perfect match for the patient’s spine.

Using a custom rod eliminates the manual rod bending process and can simplify the rod insertion process. Saving valuable time in the operating room.

If you are a fan of heavy technical speak, Mazor has their resource page about it all here.


At the time of publishing this article, this is a new combination of technologies here in Australia. But it won’t be unique for long!  I plan to use this combination more and one day, it will be commonplace.

The planning software and the machine learning technology surrounding it show great promise.

  • Benefits of Sagittal Alignment

At Keat Ooi Surgery we provide the most advanced individualised care plan that is based on established guidelines, latest research and technological advancement.