3 Technologies Improving the Spinal Surgery Market
By Kayla Matthews, HealthIT writer and technology enthusiast, Tech Blog
Spinal surgery has always been a delicate procedure that requires years of experience to provide the best patient outcomes.
New technologies are often slow in coming, taking months or years to make it through clinical trials and the FDA’s approval process.
Thankfully, three new technologies have finally made their way into the mainstream. What new technologies are currently in the process of improving the spinal surgery market?
1. Robotics and Robot-Assisted Surgeries
Robotic-assisted surgeries are becoming more common as the technology advances. These procedures allow surgeons to work either through a set of robotic arms and tools, or with the assistance of these tools, while in the operating room.
One study, presented in January, found that the surgical complication rates for robot-assisted spinal surgery were dramatically lower than those found in freehand surgical procedures. Surgeries completed under robotic guidance had a 4 percent complication rate, while those completed freehand had a 12.8 percent complication rate.
Revision rates were also lower — robotic surgeries experienced a 3.8 percent revision rate, while freehand procedures experienced a 7.7 percent rate of revision.
These findings had seemingly little to do with the demographics of the patient or the surgeon. The statistics were evenly spread across the study participants, regardless of the surgeon or the patient’s age, gender or body mass index (BMI).
2. Minimally Invasive Technologies
Traditional open back surgery is often needed to complete spinal procedures, but it comes at a cost — it can damage the back muscle and cause excessive blood loss during the procedure. New techniques are reducing the need for these extremely invasive procedures, by replacing them with newer, minimally invasive spine surgery options.
These new surgery techniques work by pulling the spinal muscles aside rather than cutting through them, turning an invasive inpatient surgery to a minimally invasive outpatient procedure.
While some conditions may still require traditional open back surgery, many issues can be treated with minimally invasive surgeries, including herniated, bulging or torn discs, pinched nerves, sciatica and many others.
3. 3D-Printed Devices
3-D printers have been used for everything from making prosthetic limbs to sending tools to the International Space Station. With a computer and a drafting program, you can design and print just about anything in a variety of materials. Now, it can help improve spinal surgery recovery with the use of 3-D-printed titanium screws.
Currently in testing in Australia, an expandable 3-D-printed bone screw could prevent surgical screws from coming loose or falling out in patients with osteoporosis or weakened bones. Traditional surgical screws can’t be expanded to make up for the broken or damaged bones. These new 3-D-printed screws could be used to improve patient recovery and overall results for these surgical procedures.
The screws are currently being patented and tested in Australia, thanks to a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council. While it might take a while to get to the States, this could potentially change the outcome of spinal surgeries for numerous patients with weak bones.
Spinal surgery will always be a risky proposition, simply due to its proximity to so many nerves, muscles and blood vessels, but these new technologies can help improve the outcome of a variety of surgeries.
Whether spinal surgeons are relying on robotic assistance, minimally invasive surgery techniques, 3-D-printed tools or a combination of the three, spinal surgery is advancing to the point that once dangerous surgeries are becoming much easier to complete. Many inpatient surgeries are becoming outpatient now due to these advances.
Spinal repairs will never be easy, but with these advances, they are getting safer than ever before.