Robotic spine surgery: promise of less pain, quicker recovery

Robotic Spine Surgery: Promise of Less Pain, Quicker Recovery

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James Buie underwent successful robotic spine surgery at MedStar Health. Sixty-nine-year-old James Buie of Triangle, Va., and 70-year-old Mona Schaechter of Rockville, Md., have never met but have one thing in common: both recently found relief for their back pain thanks to a new robotic surgery option at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.

Over the last decade, James had several procedures to address the disc degeneration in various parts of his back and neck due to a longstanding military injury. So, he had become accustomed to the sizable incisions and slow recoveries that were generally part of the healing process. That’s why he was intrigued when his surgeon referred him to Jean-Marc Voyadzis, MD, co-director of the Center for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at MedStar Georgetown. Dr. Voyadzis told him in the spring that he was a good candidate for a new robotic spine procedure to address pain in his lower spine.

“I was excited about the possibility of getting pain relief,” says James, so he opted for the minimally invasive procedure using Globus ExcelsiusGPS®. MedStar Georgetown is first in the Washington, D.C., region to have the robotic navigation system specifically designed for spine surgery. Made possible by the generosity of the Elsie & Marvin Dekelboum Family Foundation, the philanthropic gift brings this new treatment option to the community, and we are incredibly grateful.


Mona SchaechterMona had her robotic procedure using this system, too. Hers was performed by Faheem Sandhu, MD, director of MedStar Georgetown Spine Surgery, to correct an injury sustained in a fall last December. “He put in two rods, four screws, and a cage, and it was all done robotically,” Mona recalls. “I have the utmost confidence in Dr. Sandhu. He recommended the robot to help with the precision required to address my spinal injury. The procedure went very well,” she explains.

Dr. Sandhu and Dr. Voyadzis— national leaders in minimally invasive spine surgery—have already performed more than 50 surgeries using this technology. They say robotic guidance improves surgical accuracy by using a GPS that provides realtime data and visualization. It shows the surgical instruments and screws in relation to the patient’s pre-operative images and adjusts accordingly if the patient moves, guiding surgeons through procedures while eliminating the need to refer to patient X-rays during surgery.

“In the past, spinal surgery relied heavily on X-rays,” Dr. Sandhu explains. “This new robot not only helps with more precise placement of spinal implants, but it also replaces the need for consulting X-rays during surgery. This process reduces exposure to radiation for both our patients and the surgical team.”

Dr. Voyadzis agrees that the technology is a real game-changer. “It allows for the effortless placement of spinal implants with great precision,” he explains. “The ability to place each implant with pinpoint accuracy through even smaller incisions avoids broad exposure of the spine and long scars, resulting in faster patient recovery, less post-operative pain, and reduced risk of infection or the need for blood transfusions.”

That was the case for James, who, six months after his procedure, is exercising three days a week in the gym and regularly walking several miles at a time with his former military buddies. He says he no longer has piercing pain down his legs and is also sleeping well at night for the first time in a while.

“After some of my past procedures, it has taken six months or more for recovery,” James says. “This time was so much easier and less painful. This is the most successful surgery I’ve had by far. Dr. Voyadzis is a man of his word. My pain has been reduced by 70%, and I have my active life back. I’m so pleased and grateful.”

Mona says she is doing really well, too. Six months after her procedure, she no longer has pain, her spine is erect, she feels stronger than she has in years, and she is walking three to five miles a day. Mona also is engaging in her passion again: gardening. “Now I can get down on my knees and dig in the garden again,” Mona enthuses. “This procedure made a big difference. I am feeling great.”

Experiencing back pain? Learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery options by clicking here or calling 301-856-2323.

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