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East Cooper Medical Center performs robot-navigated spine surgery

Technology
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East Cooper Medical Center has acquired a system to perform spine surgeries via robotic navigation, a machine it says will reduce the amount of radiation exposure and decrease the chance for human error.

“Not that there is a lot of human error there, to be honest with you, but it allows you to do that (surgery) and do it without radiation” said Dr. Richard Frisch, an orthopedic spine surgeon at East Cooper.

The Mount Pleasant hospital installed the ExcelsiusGPS robotic navigation system last month and has been performing surgeries with the machine for the past few weeks. The ExcelsiusGPS is manufactured by Globus Medical Inc.

In traditional spine surgery, Frisch said, doctors cut a large incision in the patient’s back and strip off tissue, such as muscles, ligaments and tendons, to do their work. This process leads to high rates of complications and infection, he said.

Less-invasive surgery with smaller incisions is possible, but it often means using X-rays to locate the area requiring their attention.

“One of the issues with that is, if you’re doing particularly a scoliosis case where you’re putting in 16, 20 screws, you’re taking shot after shot after shot after X-ray while you’re doing that, and it exposes everybody to a lot of radiation while you’re doing that,” Frisch said.

The robotic navigation systems use no radiation, Frisch said. In general terms, the system’s computer creates an image of the patient’s anatomy, and doctors do their work using instruments attached to the machine, such as placing screws in the spine, through a computer screen.

“Now, with this machine (ExcelsiusGPS), not only are you doing that but it actually guides you to your purpose,” Frisch said. “It takes all the information (and) the arm actually moves to exactly where you need to be.”

GPS is often associated with vehicular navigation, but Frisch said the ExcelsiusGPS system is only distantly related to what people use in their cars.

“I’m not really sure why they say GPS, to be honest with you,” he said. “But in some ways, it does kind of guide you to where you’re going.”

A spokeswoman for East Cooper Medical Center said more than $3 million has recently been invested in technology for the hospital’s musculoskeletal department, including the ExcelsiusGPS and Stryker’s Mako robotic surgical arm.

A certificate of need filing with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said the purchase and installation of the ExcelsiusGPS system at East Cooper Medical Center cost $1.48 million.

Frisch said the ExcelsiusGPS is just the first step of using these types of machines, which will continue to make spine surgery safer.

“Right now, this is kind of a first step with this machine, but you’re going to see where it rapidly progresses to do more complicated parts of the surgery,” he said. “I think it’s really sort of a game-changer in a way in the field of spine surgery."

Reach Patrick Hoff at 843-849-3144.

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