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Advancements in Robotic Spine Surgery: Weighing the Pros and Cons

There are incredible achievements happening in technology and science every day, especially in the world of spinal surgery. One of the most recent developments in spine surgery, using robotic technology in the operating room, has been up for debate among surgeons and spinal specialists, and I’ve been considering the pros and cons of these new treatment options myself.

Robotic surgery is considered a minimally invasive procedure in which the surgeon controls the camera and instruments using a console. The surgeon operates the robot while looking through a monitor that allows him to see inside the patient.  Every movement made by the surgeon is mimicked by the robot, allowing for unprecedented control, precision, and access to the human body.


Numerous studies have shown the advantages of robotic technology and the implications it has for the future of medicine.  Overall, the average length of hospital stay for patients undergoing robotic surgery was reduced by 27 percent, and complication rates were reduced by 48 percent.  A recent study published in Head and Neck Oncology shows that a robotic arm can reduce unavoidable tremors in the human hand by filtering out hand movement. And finally, robotic technology is ergonomically desirable, allowing cosmetic benefits to the patient due to smaller incision size.


Other studies have shown that robotic surgery still needs improvement and further development, including better surgeon training, before it can fully revolutionize surgery. The average duration for manual surgery was 82 minutes, while surgery using robotic technology was 106 minutes, meaning that patients will be anaesthetized longer, increasing their risk of anesthesia-related complications. The typical machine used to carry out robotic surgeries can cost around $2.6 million, which can certainly add up to a higher cost for hospitals and patients. And in 2012, there was an increase in reports of injury and death during surgeries using robotic technology.

As for any procedure, it is up to the patient and doctor to decide together which course of action is best for the situation and for the patient.  Although robotic surgery has some undesirable attributes, it is a growing area of technology with the potential to assist in medical breakthroughs and, ultimately, better patient outcomes.