Spinal surgery is a risky procedure. Many spine surgeons support minimally invasive techniques to enable patient's soft tissues to heal faster. Some of these minimally invasive spine surgery techniques, combined with advancements in technology, contribute to successful outcomes.
These new advancements in spine surgery technology, which are outline below, are effective for many different several spinal maladies while enable spinal surgeons to maintain their ethos of minimal invasion.
Most spinal surgery involves the surgeon placing screws into the vertebrae by hand. The surgeon feels around the affected area then makes a judgment call on where best to place the screws.
If the best spot to place the screw is not easily deduced then the surgeon will use X-ray imaging to get a better sense of where to place them - thus image guided spine surgery. The drawback with using X-ray imaging is that both the patient and the surgical staff may be exposed to harmful amounts of radiation.
In some cases, the results of image-guided spine surgery justify the exposure to radiation. Advanced imaging guidance systems greatly improve the accuracy of the screws being placed and there are some cases where the doctor would have been entirely unable to decide where to fuse vertebrae without the aid of image guidance systems. They are also used as diagnostic tools.
There is a misconception among most patients that lasers are the best tools to use for their treatment however the truth is that lasers are almost useless when it comes to spinal surgeries.
A laser is a beam of light that is focused to make it intense enough to cut soft tissue. They work well for exposing the vertebrae however electrocautery is a more efficient way of cutting soft tissue. Lasers for spine surgery are used almost exclusively as a marketing tool.
Some spinal surgeons convince their patients to do the procedure with them by telling their patients that they will be using the most advanced technology available (i.e lasers for the spine surgery.) When the patient agrees, these surgeons make the first incision with a scalpel then use the laser to cut through the fatty tissue before going back to electrocautery.
The placebo response is the only good reason to use a laser for spinal surgery. The patients experience relief after laser spine surgery is done however the long-lasting benefits have not been endorsed by formal clinical studies. Lasers have been used in spinal surgery since the 1980s, however the National Institutes of Health do not endorse their usefulness.
Robotic spine surgery is among the latest technological developments in neurosurgery. Professor Richard Bittar was the first surgeon in the US to use the Mazor Renaissance Robot to successfully perform spinal surgery. Since then, other reputable surgeons, like New Jersey spine surgeon Dr. Joshua S. Rovner, have embraced this new approach.
Before the development of the Mazor Renaissance Robotic Guidance System doctors would perform spinal surgery by putting screws in their patients' spines either by hand of by using X-ray imaging as the procedure went on. These methods have varying levels of effectiveness which is why the Mazor Robotic Guidance System was designed to increase the accuracy of the screw placements. The robot's precision reduces the chances of a patient getting paralyzed.
In certain cases of robotic guided spine surgery, the spine doctor is still the one to put in the screws however the robot points out the locations that they would be best placed.
New technology helps to solve old problems however there are some limitations that new technologies have in actualizing a successful surgery.
The first is the importance of an accurate physical and mobility assessment before spine surgery. Identifying the cause of neck or back pain requires . The physician must assess what is causing the pain to a high degree of certainty. They will use technology such as X-rays to do this however the readout still has to assessed by people who know what they are doing.
The second is on how to pick a skilled surgeon. Spinal surgery is a money-making business and a very lucrative one at that so some doctors may be more interested in making money than in the well-fare of their patients. This means that they will taut the use of the latest advancements in spinal surgery even when that technology may not be useful at all.
Relying solely on new technology is not advisable when seeking a successful outcome for your surgery. Thankfully there are governing bodies such as the NIH which look into the scientific studies behind the emergence of each new technology before giving their endorsements.