Robot helps doctors perform spinal surgery in a new way

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If you suffer from back pain, Allina Health is using a new robot to get you back on your feet faster.

Already being practiced, a new surgical technique uses a programmable robotic arm to help doctors plan out a surgery step-by-step.

Developed by a Medtronic company, the Mazor-X is the latest advancement in spinal surgery. The robot works in conjunction with CT scans to pinpoint the exact trajectory and depth for surgeons to drill screws into the spine, resulting in much smaller incisions that Dr. Eiman Shafa says leads to less damage.

“Less collateral damage means less tissues that are disrupted, less tissue disrupted means less bleeding, shorter surgery,” Dr. Shafa said.  

All of these were selling points to Wayne Baca who had suffered from lower back pain for years.
“I literally had shooting pain, and it would last all day long from my hip to the sole of my foot,” Baca said.

With the new robot, Dr. Shafa was able to program the exact placement of the screws in Wayne’s spine to anchor the braces to relieve pressure on the disks and nerves. The post-surgery X-rays show an exact match of the surgical structure.

Baca was able to return to work in just 10 days.

“It’s as if I’ve never had a back problem ever in my life,” he said.  

Dr. Shafa is sold, too. He says the new robotic technology is already making a difference for his patients.

“Everything that leads to better patient outcomes and better patient experience is really important to us,” he said.  

Although the device is brand new for the spine, other types of robotic assisted surgery is already common. Allina has 11 robotic different kinds of robotic surgical devices in its Twin Cities hospitals, and those devices performed 3,100 robotic-assisted surgeries last year.