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About robotic surgical guidance

Boston Children’s is one of the first children’s hospitals in the world to use the newest generation of robotic technology for patients with spine deformities, the Mazor X Stealth Robotic Guidance system.

How can robotic guidance improve the quality and safety of spine surgery?

Spinal surgery aims to correct spinal deformities through the attachment of instrumentation (metal rods, hooks, and screws) to the vertebrae of the spine. Because of its close proximity to the spinal cord, this instrumentation must be attached with absolute precision. Robotic surgery combines software, imaging, and mechanical guidance to assist the surgical team in the exact placement of surgical hardware, leaving the spinal cord and the many nerves surrounding the spine undisturbed.

Dr. Daniel Hedequist, Spine Division chief, performs spinal fusion surgery using a robotic guidance system. A robotic arm helps determine the exact location and angle of screws used to correct spinal deformities as the surgeon attaches them to the spine.

Read more about spinal fusion surgery
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Dr. Daniel Hedequist performs spinal surgery.

Before surgery, the system’s preoperative planning software helps the surgical team determine the size and type of spinal instrumentation best suited to a child’s individual anatomy. The software also provides anatomical images to help surgeons fully understand their patient’s anatomy before they enter the operating room. This detailed knowledge is particularly helpful when a child is very small or has a severe a deformity that may affect the angle of the vertebrae in unpredictable ways.

During surgery, as the surgeon attaches hardware to the spine, an automated robotic arm guides the trajectory of screw placement, minimizing any misplacement of screws and preventing surgical harm. Throughout the procedure, the system provides real-time imaging of the spine so the surgeon can verify the exact placement of each implant, providing another layer of safety. 

Robotic surgery holds the promise of improving surgical accuracy of placing spinal instrumentation in children. This accuracy could lead to an eventual decrease in surgical complications and ultimately improve the safety of pediatric spinal deformity surgeries.