YOUR HEALTH: A Knox College grad’s cutting edge robotic spinal surgery is offering new hope

A Knox College graduate is on the cutting edge of robotic spinal surgery.

CHICAGO, Illinois - Jack Stone had a pinched nerve in his leg for four years but didn't let it stop him from living an active lifestyle.

That is, until one day.

"The scariest thing was when my right leg would go completely numb, very unsettling."

He knew it was time to get help.

"I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to live the next however many years I've got, 20 or 25 or 30 years in that physical condition."

Jack became one of the first patients in Chicago to undergo spine surgery with new robotic technology.

Standard spine surgery requires more time and radiation.

"Each time we're taking an x-ray to make sure we like where the position is of the of the probe," explained Dr. Christopher DeWald, director of Rush University's Spinal Deformity Section.

"And then we take an x-ray before we put the screw and then we take another x-ray to make sure the screw is in the right location.  And that's a lot of extra radiation not only to the surgeon but to the patient."

Dr. DeWald has a local connection:  He graduated from Knox College cum laude before heading to Rush University's Medical School where he's director of the medical center's section on spinal deformity.

Instead, the Mazor X system creates a blueprint of the patient's spine and a robotic arm guides the surgeon as they place screws into the spine.   This allows for less radiation, saved time, lower costs, increased safety, and more efficient placement of screws.

"To me, it's a homerun," said Dr. DeWald.

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush says it is the first in Chicago to use the Mazor X™ Robotic Guidance Platform for some of its spinal fusion surgery patients.    This technology combines pre-operative imaging and intra-operative guidance, allowing for safer, more efficient spinal fusion surgeries.   Mazor Robotics says '3D planning is performed using cutting-edge anatomy recognition and vertebral segmentation algorithms for surgical visualization based on a patient`s images. The resulting surgical plan includes implant and trajectory placement planning.

Jack's surgery was a success.

"I'm really pleased with the outcome, that's the biggest thing.  The numbness has gone away, what pain I had has completely gone away."

And he's ready to get back to his active lifestyle.

Doctors can match a CT scan of the spine with an X-ray, so surgeons can plan the placement of the screws on the CT scan ahead of time.

Dr. DeWald says the technology is great for both minimally invasive and more involved surgeries, such as spinal deformity.

He is among the first in the Midwest to use the system.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.