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New robotic technology improves safety and precision of spinal fusion surgeries


New robotic technology improves safety and precision of spinal fusion surgeries

A new technology is now available at Rush University Medical Center that improves the safety and precision of spinal fusion surgeries and reduces the time required for the procedure. The technology, called the Mazor X Robotic Guidance Platform, improves surgical planning and precision by combining pre-operative imaging and image guidance during the procedure.


Spinal fusion is used to relieve pain and other symptoms for conditions such as tumors, fractures, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, and degenerative disc disease. During spinal fusion, the vertebrae (bones of the spine) fuse together, eliminating movement between the vertebrae.

Rush is the first hospital in Chicago to use a robotic platform with an imaging component that provides a customized 'outline' of a patient's spine and detailed locations of spinal screws. The robotic platform attaches to the patient as well as the operating room table and includes a robotic arm that helps guide the surgeon as they place the screws in the appropriate places.


“An important and time-consuming component of correcting the deformity is to correctly and safely position the screws connecting the vertebrae into the spine. This system makes this part of the procedure more efficient and aids in correct placement of these screws. "

Christopher DeWald, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Rush University Medical Center


"Because the robotic system makes screw placement more efficient, I can focus on different aspects of the procedure, such as correcting the deformity and decompressing the nerves. The entire surgery can be completed in less time," DeWald said.


Another benefit of robotic spinal fusion surgery is that it reduces both a patient's and surgeon's exposure to radiation because the surgeon may rely less on X-ray imaging for guidance during surgery. The technology allows images taken during surgery to be matched with a computed tomography (CT) scan taken prior to the procedure with millimeter accuracy. The robot can match the patient's position during surgery to the pre-operative CT scan.

“The robotic arm moves into position to help me insert the screws according to the plan I created before surgery,” DeWald said. "This tool gives me the ability to optimize the size of the screw for each individual patient. The increased level of safety for the patient is always a primary focus and the reason for using robotic tools and technology."

DeWald is one of the first people in his practice and in the country to use the Mazor X stealth version of the robotic system in spinal surgery. To date, he has performed more than a dozen procedures to correct spinal deformity procedures using this technology.

“My partners and I can use this technology for any procedure that requires screw placement or pre-operative planning for the patient's sagittal alignment. In addition to deformity correction, we can use the robot for degenerative lumbar fusions and fracture stabilization,” he said.

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