What is Robotic Spine Surgery?

Use of robots for minimally invasive procedures

The use of robots in the operating room is on the rise due to the benefits associated with advanced surgical technologies. Although robotic technologies benefit most types of spine surgeries, surgeries using minimally invasive surgical (MIS) techniques offer limited fields of sight so these advancements help even more to boost accuracy and reduce complication rates.1

Robotic-assisted surgery has been used for years by other surgical subspecialties. The robotic arms are typically synched with surgical navigation software and therefore function in the same manner. Similar to a global positioning system, continuous surgical data is displayed and updated on a digital screen in the operating room. The system continually tracks the patient’s anatomy, the robot and the surgical instruments in real time.

The robots come in a variety of designs with varying levels of “assistance” that can be broken down into three general categories.

  • Supervisory-controlled systems whereby the machine is programmed with predetermined actions that are carried out with robotic autonomy and close surgeon supervision.
  • Telesurgical systems that afford the surgeon complete control of the motions of the machine from a remote command station.
  • Shared-control models, a form of co-autonomy allowing both the surgeon and robot to simultaneously control motions.

1 Faris Shweikeh, B.S., Jordan P. Amadio, M.D., M.B.A., Monica Arnell, B.A., Zachary R. Barnard, M.D., Terrence T. Kim, M.D., J. Patrick Johnson, M.D., and Doniel Drazin, M.D. Robotics and the spine: a review of current and ongoing applications. Neurosurg Focus 36 (3):E10, 2014