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From hour-long surgery to a 5 minute procedure: How robot technology changed spinal operations

Dr. Nicholas Theodore using the robot technology during surgery. (Supplied)
Dr. Nicholas Theodore using the robot technology during surgery. (Supplied)
Dr. Nicholas Theodore using the robot technology during surgery. (Supplied)
DUBAI: A doctor has revolutionized spinal surgery with the introduction of a robot that can carry out a procedure that previously took an hour in just five minutes.
Dr. Nicholas Theodore, director at the neurosurgical spine center at Johns Hopkins Medicine, has invented an image-guided robot for spine surgery that marries a CT scan of the patient with the actual patient.
And already it has shown its capability, by inserting four screws into a patient’s spine in just five minutes – a procedure that previously took 12-times as long.
“As good as I am or anybody is, nobody’s perfect and the whole issue is: Can we make surgery safer for the patient? Can we make that experience quicker and more accurate?” Dr. Theodore, who is also a professor of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University told Arab News.
Using real-time imaging technology that constantly monitors the patient’s moves, the robot is able to adapt as the patient breathes or changes position slightly, allowing a greater chance of 100 percent accuracy and faster recovery time.
And the use of image-guided robotics helps to reduce the risk of error, such as screws going into the wrong place, which are more likely under more traditional methods Dr. Theodore explained.
“The trend in all of medicine is to improve our outcome and to make things safer, i think robotics is the future of everything we do in surgery,” the doctor said.
According to a 2015 study found in the World Journal of Emergency Surgery on the epidemiology of spinal injuries in the UAE, traffic injuries and falls were the leading causes for spinal injuries in the UAE.
Using modern techniques such as robotics in surgical procedures is costly, but Dr. Theodore insists that the machine will “pay for itself.”
“Now I can do three operations in one day instead of two; the hospital will be profitable in that respect,” the doctor said, adding that “the cost becomes irrelevant when patients are doing better and they’re going home faster.”

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