Article Abstract

What should my hospital buy next?—Guidelines for the acquisition and application of imaging, navigation, and robotics for spine surgery

Authors: Gregory M. Malham, Thomas Wells-Quinn


The range of assistive technology options available for spinal fusion surgery has significantly increased. However, surgeons and hospital administrators may lack sufficient information to compare options and make purchasing decisions. We summarize currently available navigation, robotics, and imaging technologies for spinal surgery, highlighting key characteristics, utility, differences, price, and compatibility with other technologies and spinal implants. Guidelines for optimal use and combinations are provided based on surgical approach, operative site, patient anatomy, optimal image quality, and workflow efficiency. Key recommendations include the following. (I) Open-platform navigation and robotics systems that provide surgeons with access to all software and hardware features regardless of implant choice are preferred. (II) Imaging systems that have maximum compatibility with navigation and robotics platforms are optimal. (III) Navigation systems that offer a universal registration mechanism should be standard. (IV) 3D fluoroscopy provides the greatest benefit when speed, operative efficiency, and mobility are required. (V) Intraoperative CT is more useful for imaging long constructs, high BMI, or cervicothoracic anatomy. (VI) Radiation safety awareness that new 3D-fluoroscopy units can deliver radiation comparable to that of CT is needed. (VII) New robotic arm platforms require more clinical and health economic data to justify increased costs.