'All instrumentation will be absorbable': 2 surgeons predict the future of spine

Practice Management

From the growth of robotic technology to the increasing role artificial intelligence and machine learning will play in spine,  bold predictions about the future of the specialty are shared by two surgeons.

Note: Responses are lightly edited for style and clarity.

Question: What's one bold prediction you have about the future of the spine industry?

Lawrence Marshall, MD. UC San Diego Health: In a decade, all instrumentation will be absorbable. Interbody materials will be grown in the laboratory and mixed with nanoparticles coated with growth factors. The outer shell will be a temporary absorbable biopolymer. All implants will be placed by robotic percutaneous technique.

Philip Louie, MD. Virginia Mason Franciscan Health (Seattle): I think that machine learning and artificial intelligence will play a large role in further expanding the use of enabling technologies and driving down the cost of surgery, all in the name of providing greater safety and value to our patients. The expansive data we are currently collecting through diverse avenues will allow multidisciplinary teams to assess how we can perform surgery through the use of more integrated real-time systems that will reduce the number of trays necessary, improve surgical accuracy, reduce operative times and radiation exposure, as well as decreasing the risk of iatrogenic complications during surgery.

The same data (that will be the background of these integrated systems) will ultimately drive our decision-making throughout the whole continuum of patient care  — from preoperative planning and risk stratification to real-time solution proposals intraoperatively, and guiding patient engagement and support postoperatively. We will see the collaboration of multiple industries and research minds that will drive these changes in an evidence-based manner that can keep up with the demands for higher quality care in a cost-constrained landscape.

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