The use of robotics in minimally invasive spine surgery
The field of spine surgery has changed significantly over the past few decades as once technological fantasy has become reality. The advent of stereotaxis, intra-operative navigation, endoscopy, and percutaneous instrumentation have altered the landscape of spine surgery. The concept of minimally invasive spine (MIS) surgery has blossomed over the past ten years and now robot-assisted spine surgery is being championed by some as another potential paradigm altering technological advancement. The application of robotics in other surgical specialties has been shown to be a safe and feasible alternative to the traditional, open approach. In 2004 the Mazor Spine Assist robot was approved by FDA to assist with placement of pedicle screws and since then, more advanced robots with promising clinical outcomes have been introduced. Currently, robotic platforms are limited to pedicle screw placement. However, there are centers investigating the role of robotics in decompression, dural closure, and pre-planned osteotomies. Robot-assisted spine surgery has been shown to increase the accuracy of pedicle screw placement and decrease radiation exposure to surgeons. However, modern robotic technology also has certain disadvantages including a high introductory cost, steep learning curve, and inherent technological glitches. Currently, robotic spine surgery is in its infancy and most of the objective evidence available regarding its benefits draws from the use of robots in a shared-control model to assist with the placement of pedicle screws. As artificial intelligence software and feedback sensor design become more sophisticated, robots could facilitate other, more complex surgical tasks such as bony decompression or dural closure. The accuracy and precision afforded by the current robots available for use in spinal surgery potentially allow for even less tissue destructive and more meticulous MIS surgery. This article aims to provide a contemporary review of the use of robotics in MIS surgery.