Two orthopedic surgeons connected with Becker's to discuss where orthopedic surgical robots fall short.
Ask Orthopedic Surgeons is a weekly series of questions posed to surgeons around the country about clinical, business and policy issues affecting orthopedic care. We invite all orthopedic surgeon and specialist responses.
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Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Matthew Levine, MD. Orthopedic Physician at the Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics (Bethesda, Md.): There are a handful of areas where orthopedic surgical robots fall short. One shortcoming is that they don't necessarily improve patient outcomes. The lack of a universal platform or consistency among manufacturers is probably the greatest shortfall. Because of the inconsistencies, it is hard to demonstrate the benefit of preplanning with orthopedic surgical robots. Comparing manufacturers is comparing apples to oranges. Since there is no consistency that creates valid research, it is difficult to obtain strong data to prove the benefit.
Tyler Smith, MD. Founder of Sierra Spine Institute (Roseville, Calif.): The current generation of surgical robots really solves the easiest part of spinal procedures. Instrumentation is something that we've had a pretty good handle on for a really long time. What would be helpful to me in my practice is soft tissue resection in delicate areas of the spine—most notably in revisions where there is scar tissue in the interface between the healthy tissue and the pathologic tissue was not clear. This is the finest work that I do, and confidence around that part of the procedure would be a welcome revolutionary step in robotic surgery.