Robotic tech developed to conduct spinal surgery

By Folake Dosu  |  January 18, 2019

robotics-spinal-surgery

A new research project at a U.K. university has developed robots capable of conducting spinal surgery with “greater accuracy than humanly possible,” reports CNBC.

The Nottingham Trent University team’s system enables two robotic arms “to semi-autonomously drill holes in individual vertebrae,” according to the university. Philip Breedon, professor of Smart Technologies at Nottingham Trent, leads the team, which is also exploring how augmented reality can offer insights to surgeons in real-time.

No operations using the robotic technology have occurred yet, and no timetable has been shared.

“Surgeons performing life-changing operations to correct spinal conditions such as scoliosis or kyphosis have to ensure pinpoint levels of accuracy are achieved to avoid causing unnecessary and potentially serious injuries,” Breedon said in a statement.

“This technology promises to deliver greater levels of accuracy than ever previously achieved – or even humanly possible – to improve the safety and efficiency of such procedures which are needed by people with serious spinal conditions.”

“This technology promises to deliver greater levels of accuracy than ever previously achieved – or even humanly possible – to improve the safety and efficiency of such procedures which are needed by people with serious spinal conditions,” he stated.

“Pedicle screws,” connected to deformity rod reducers, are inserted in the holes drilled in the vertebrae, so that surgeons in the operating room can “lever individual vertebrae and realign the spine.” 

The robotic arms work in concert during the operation. “One robot is connected to a vertebrae and moves with it, following the patient’s natural movements. It passes on this information to a computer. A second robot makes automatic adjustments to ensure it stays on its ‘pre-defined path’ and maintains accuracy while drilling,” says CNBC.

David Brown, a professor from Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology, and Bronek Boszczyk, Head of Spinal Surgery at Benedictus Krankenhaus Tutzing in Germany and a visiting professor at Nottingham Trent University, are overseeing the research.

Boszczyk described the technology as an example of how robotics could “enhance and improve the way in which intrusive operations are carried out, improving patient safety and ensuring efficiency of process.”

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