4 technologies exciting spine surgeons

Alan Condon -  

Innovation continues to pick up steam across the spine industry as surgeons look for more minimally invasive methods to operate on their patients, reduce the risk of complications and accelerate recovery.

Four technologies that spine surgeons are excited about:

1. Augmented reality

Over the next five years, AR technology is projected to cement its footing in spine surgery. AR systems on the market have been shown to eliminate the time-consuming setup of robots and can be purchased at a fraction of the price. Surgeons can use the technology to enhance what they see intraoperatively, with real-time 3D guidance and feedback based on a hologram-like reconstruction of the body.

"Nothing is as groundbreaking as the advancements being made in AR," said Daniel Yanni, MD, of Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, Calif. "This technology expands the amenities of a multimillion-dollar operating theater to a whole new reality, utilizing a portable headset that can be used anywhere, in any operating room. It is analogous to bringing the Iron Man helmet to your local surgeon."

2. Artificial intelligence

While AI and machine learning are still in their infancy in healthcare, they are expected to have a significant effect on how providers plan, perform and predict spine surgeries.  

"We will truly have a more comprehensive approach to the patients in terms of planning, execution and patient-reported outcomes," Ronald Lehman Jr., MD, of New York City-based Columbia Orthopedic Surgery, told Becker's. "Using data and predictive analytics will allow us to tell each patient what their expected results will be before they consider a spine surgery, and also, perhaps, who best to perform the surgery, as all of our metrics, as surgeons, will be available as well."

3. Endoscopic spine surgery

Endoscopic spine surgery is by no means new, but recent technological advancements and the shift to the outpatient setting are anticipated to spur the adoption of endoscopic techniques in the U.S. While there are some drawbacks related to reimbursement and the learning curve of endoscopy, numerous clinical trials have demonstrated its ability to reduce postoperative pain and accelerate recovery.

"Endoscopic spine surgery is already a global phenomenon, and the numbers don't lie. Every year I see a steady increase in the number of publications related to endoscopic techniques and the number of surgeons utilizing endoscopic techniques," Saqib Hasan, MD, of Oakland, Calif.-based Webster Orthopedics, told Becker's."I think practices will find having surgeons who are skilled in performing endoscopic techniques will help establish an excellent spine referral base, as many patients are amazed at their recovery and often tell their friends and family."

4. Robotics

Robotics has been used in spine surgery for more than a decade, though the tech still is considered to have a long way to go. More device companies are jumping on the robotics train and developing smaller, more efficient and more cost-effective systems that will accelerate adoption and make these technologies more available to ASCs, most of which run on fine margins and have smaller operating rooms than their hospital counterparts.

"The next generation of robots will lead to safer, more reproducible neural identification and decompression by incorporating safe zones, haptic feedback and machine vision," said Kris Radcliff, MD, of Philadelphia-based Rothman Orthopaedic Institute. "Robots have the potential to contribute to every spine surgery. Robots can also detect physical condition changes such as a loss of resistance or change in sound that are imperceptible to humans. Ultimately, robotic technology will enhance spine surgery in the same manner that machine vision and sensors contribute to self-driving vehicles."

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