Robot targets common back problem - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Robot targets common back problem

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(09/25/12) - A tiny, glowing robot can travel inside your body, and make it easier to relive back pain. The robot is a sort of special assistant for surgeons performing spinal fusion. The surgery is very common. The robot is hoped to lead to better accuracy, which will ultimately mean better outcomes for patients.

Gail and Paul Wells met and fell in love after they both lost their spouses.

"We just clicked," Gail says.

The newlyweds love to travel, but long trips were painful for Gail. "Sitting was really difficult."

She had degenerative spinal stenosis.

"The result of that is a narrowing of the spinal canal, which is a very common problem that we see as we get older," says Dr. Faissal Zahrawi, of Florida Hospital.

Dr. Zahrawi suggested spinal fusion for Gail. But, instead of free-handing the hardware into Gail's back, he used a tiny, green, lit-up robot called Mazor Renaissance.

"The robot aids in the insertion of these screws and rods," Zahrawi says.

Before the procedure, detailed scans are taken giving surgeons a 3D look at the spine, Zahrawi says, "which we've never seen before."

Information from those scans is then sent to the robot. During the operation, the robot guides surgeons to where the hardware needs to go.

Dr. Zahrawi says the traditional, free-hand technique can be up to 5 percent off the mark, but the robot gets him within one millimeter, "the safety factor is huge."

A month after surgery, Gail is back on track. "Oh, I'm walking miles, sometimes five miles a day."

It is also estimated the robot will cut down on radiation exposure by 80 percent, because fewer X-rays are needed during surgery.

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