Spinal Fusion

Spinal-fusion surgery is a medical procedure for treating several types of back ailments and health conditions. Two or more bones in your spinal column, called vertebrae, are “fused” or joined together, eliminating the possibility of independent movement. The bony material used to join the vertebrae may be taken from the patient’s own body, donated by another person, or synthesized by a technological process. This material is typically held in place while healing by rods, screws, or metal plates.

Spinal fusions are used to address a number of medical conditions, including:

  • Arthritis

  • Disc herniations

  • Kyphosis, scoliosis, and other spinal deformities

  • Misaligned or unstable vertebrae (spondylolisthesis)

  • Tumors and other forms of infection

  • Vertebrae fractures

Spinal-fusion procedures can be conducted by means of open surgery, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, or minimally invasive robotic surgery. In robot-assisted spinal-fusion surgery, the medical team uses sophisticated tools that replicate human movement and enhance surgical performance. Robot-assisted spinal surgeries are performed at some Baptist Health facilities in Kentucky and Indiana.

Benefits of Robotic Surgery

It is important to note that robotic surgery does not mean being operated on by a machine, rather than a fellow human. Robotic surgery is robot-assisted surgery, where the robot is a group of tools used by a surgeon and his or her medical team to aid in the procedure. These tools are called robots because they mimic human motions and movements, sometimes with greater precision and less fatigue than we’re capable of.

Robotic surgery offers the following benefits:

  • Greater surgical precision, with customized incisions and bone remodeling

  • Decreased radiation exposure

  • Reduced hospital stays

  • Quicker recovery times

  • Shorter periods of physical therapy

  • Faster return to normal living

How Does Robot-assisted Spinal-fusion Surgery Work?

At Baptist Health, robot-assisted spinal fusions are performed with the aid of medical systems developed by Globus Medical and Medtronic, a pair of leading healthcare technology firms.

A critical component of robot-assisted spinal fusion occurs prior to the start of surgery. A CT scan of the surgical area is uploaded to the robot where it serves as the operating plan for the procedure. It creates a three-dimensional diagram of the vertebrae that guides the surgeon during the operation. He or she uses real-time video feedback to make to tiny adjustments to that plan, once the procedure is underway. At the same time, the robot limits deviations from the plan, as a precautionary measure against possible error.

The removal of the intervertebral disc, as well as the positioning of the bone graft, is conducted by the surgeon using a robotic arm. He or she enters the spinal column by means of small incisions through which the surgical instruments are inserted. Unlike open surgery, muscle covering the surgical area is peeled back rather than cut apart. The robot ensures proper placement of the graft, screws, and other instrumentation, with the goal of eliminating the pain and dysfunction associated with deteriorated discs, stenotic conditions, and/or fractured vertebrae.

Joining the surgeon and the robot in the operating room are the entire surgical team, including the anesthesiologist, the nurses, and a second surgeon or surgical assistant.

What to Expect with Robot-assisted Spinal-fusion Surgery

You should prepare for a robot-assisted spinal fusion the way you would any other major surgical procedure. Discuss with your physician medically necessary steps beforehand. You’ll be anesthetized and given pain medication during the procedure. The length of your hospital stay following surgery will depend on a variety of factors. Patients are sometimes able to go home within 24 hours of the surgery. You’ll be provided with a pain-management plan. Expect limited mobility until you’ve adjusted to and gained confidence in the fused vertebrae. Physical therapy will be an integral part of that adjustment.

Know Your Risk

Baptist Health is committed to being a leading medical provider of robot-assisted diagnosis and surgery in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. If you have questions or concerns about your back and spinal health, contact a Baptist Health provider.