Mr Keat Ooi | Orthopaedic Spine Surgeon Melbourne

A team member of Orthopaedics Victoria

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Robotic Spine Surgery

a spinal surgery robotic system with a picture of the robotic arm on a display monitor

Spinal surgery is a complex surgical procedure that demands precision and accuracy to achieve optimal results for patients. In recent years, the use of robotic surgery has emerged as a promising technology for spinal procedures, offering many potential benefits over traditional surgical techniques.

In this article, we will explore how robotic devices are used in spinal surgery and we will answer some of your commonly asked questions.

Robotic Spine Surgery in a Snap Shot

Robotic surgery is a surgical technique that uses robotic technology to assist with spinal procedures. This innovative approach has potential advantages over traditional freehand techniques.

Robot assisted surgery can be used to assist with spinal fusion surgery to treat various spinal conditions such as herniated discs, spinal stenosis, scoliosis and degenerative disc disease.

I wrote a detailed article all about it here.

So, the robot performs my spine surgery?

No, we are not quite there yet.

It’s not like the surgeon can sit back and have a cup of tea while the robot does all the work! A better way to describe the process is as robotic assisted surgery.

Okay, so how are robots actually used during robotic surgery?

There are a couple of technologies at play.

During surgery, scans are taken intraoperatively to obtain details of the patient’s anatomy. These are loaded into a computer attached to the robotic system. These images provide the surgeon with valuable information. Utilising sophisticated software, the surgeon then performs planning to ensure optimal screw positioning and sizing for the patient.

Then during surgery a robotic arm holds special instruments and helps guide the surgeon as they work.  The robot arm then positions itself automatically using information provided by the scans on the computer in conjunction with the surgical planning performed by the surgeon.

There is also a monitor the surgeon can refer to, giving them real time feedback. This monitor makes up the computer navigation aspect of the system.

When all these separate parts are put together, they are known as a robotic surgical system or a robotic guidance platform.


Computer Navigation

Often you will hear the term Computer Navigation used in conjunction with robotic surgery.

Simply put, this is the part of the system that the surgeon refers to which helps guide them on the placement of surgical instruments.  

It is so smart it can even simulate the placement of implants like cages and screws.

What does a robotic surgical system look like?

In the case of spinal surgery there are a couple of systems out there.

Here is an example of the type of system I am trained in, it is known as the Mazor X Robotic Guidance Platform. In the pictures you can see the robot arm and the real time monitor that the surgeon uses for reference.

In the background a surgical assistant views a larger computer system. The surgical team can use this larger computer to simulate how implants might be placed before performing the actual procedure.

Click here for photos of Keat using the actual system.

You can read more about the Mazor X Guidance System here.

What spinal procedures are performed using robotic technology?

The types of surgical robots mentioned in this article (such as the Mazor X) are most commonly used to assist with lumbar spinal fusion.

Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure where spinal implants, such as rods and screws, are placed on the spine with a goal of bridging two or more spinal vertebrae together, immobilising them in order to prevent nerve irritation and instability.

It is one of the most commonly performed procedure when it comes to spine surgery.

The procedure is used to treat degenerative conditions, spinal deformity, , spinal instability, spinal fractures disc issues.

Can any surgeon use a surgical robot?

The surgeon needs to be qualified in the use of a robotic surgical system. This means that not any surgeon can go jump on a robot and start operating!

They require special training in order to use a robotic surgical system.

Keat Ooi has received this training and now specialises in the use of spinal robotic guidance surgery. Check out our picture gallery of Keat using the system.

Or you can read more about Keat using robotic assisted surgery here: Keat in the media.

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

Keat Ooi, Trained Robotic Surgery Specialist

phone 03 9088 5655