Surgeons at The Johns Hopkins Hospital Have for the First Time Used a Real-Time, Image Guided Robot to Insert Screws into a Patient’s Spine

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Nicholas Theodore, M.D., professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the Neurosurgical Spine Center of Johns Hopkins Medicine commented, “People get excited when they realize that there are new potential interventions and strategies to help them get better, faster.  “We are really excited to be able to offer this to our patients.”

The first patient to go through this new procedure had a spine injury from a fall at home. She agreed to the new robotic surgery, in part, because it aims to be 100 percent accurate.

Current image-guided surgical procedures require the surgeon to look back and forth between the patient and an image, which causes imperfection of screw placement. While oftentimes these placements are “good enough,” it wasn’t good enough for Theodore, who invented the robot and maintains a financial interest in the technology.

This new robot “marries” a CT scan of the patient with the actual patient, allowing the surgeon to point to a spot on the CT scan and tell the robot to aim for that same spot. Connected to a camera, which itself reads landmarks on the patient, the robot is able to process what the camera “sees” with the CT image in real time. The biggest fear in this type of procedure is movement—what if the patient breathes or otherwise moves slightly—but this robot can sense changes in position and adjust accordingly.

After the surgery “I felt better right away. It was amazing,” said the patient in a video testimonial.

Spine surgery is used to treat conditions that include degenerative disease, spine tumors and trauma. According to a 2015 study, traffic accidents and falls are the leading cause of spinal injuries in the United Arab Emirates.