The big spine technology trends to watch & best advice from Dr. Thomas Scully

Written by Laura Dyrda | September 25, 2018 | Print  |

Thomas Scully, MD, a neurological surgeon with Northwest NeuroSpecialists in Tucson, Ariz., discusses the future of spinal technology and offers advice for young entrepreneurial spine surgeons in this feature article.

Dr. Scully is a featured speaker at the Becker's 17th Annual Future of Spine + The Spine, Orthopedic and Pain Management-Driven ASC Conference, June 13-15 in Chicago. Click here to learn more and register. For more information about exhibitor and sponsor opportunities, contact Maura Jodoin at

Question: Which orthopedic and spine device trends and technologies do you see making the biggest impact long term?

Dr. Thomas Scully: I think robotics combined with artificial intelligence will continue to expand and innovate. Besides planning and executing screw placement in the spine, I see it developing for decompressions, discectomy and other standard spinal surgeries. I think AI will progress to help us determine algorithms based on imaging and patient characteristics, which will predict patient results.

Genetics and biologics will evolve, and motion preservation in the spine is here to stay.

Q: How do you ensure you're staying on the cutting-edge of your surgical practice while also being mindful of achieving value-based outcomes for your patients?

TS: To stay "cutting-edge," it is imperative to continue to read, specifically Becker's and journals, as well as to attend continuing medical education. Over my career, I have become more of a "middle adopter" of new technologies. I don't usually jump on the bandwagon at the beginning. Rather, I will let others work out some of the flaws. One must be vigilant regarding cost of new technology. Some of it provides only marginal benefit at a significant cost. Those are potentially problematic for hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers and for surgeon report cards.

Q: What is your best advice for young entrepreneurial surgeons with an idea to improve implants, instruments or technology used to improve the care of orthopedic and spine patients?

TS: For young surgeons, I think finding a smaller company that is willing to listen to your ideas is best. With 3D printing and computer-aided design, it is relatively simple for companies to make prototypes based on surgeons' ideas and designs. I think the smaller companies are more nimble with surgeons in this regard compared to the behemoths out there. The surgeons need to make sure to protect their ideas from an intellectual property standpoint legally. If any questions, seek counsel from an attorney.

To participate in a future Becker's Q&A, contact Laura Dyrda at

More articles on spine surgery:
The next 5 years: Where Dr. Todd Chapman sees the biggest challenges & opportunities for spine surgeons just starting out
How an early-career spine surgeon sees his practice evolving
The biggest challenges in spine reimbursement today and the value-based solution

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