YOUR HEALTH: A robotic arm is helping doctors perform delicate spinal surgeries

Surgeons can now use a robotic arm to better perform spinal surgeries.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Doctors are using a new robotic 3-D "imaging arm" to successful complete delicate spinal surgeries.

"It's like getting a CT scan while you're still in the operating room, so that if anything is out of place, we can fix it immediately," said Dr. Jonathan Duncan, orthopedic spine surgeon with San Antonio Orthopedic Group.

The O-Arm navigation technology uses two and 3-D technology, encircling the patient on the table.  This eliminates the need to wheel them into radiology during or after surgery.

Surgeons can literally see the patient's spine during the operation, giving them a clear, live view if changes need to be made.

"It can also be a tool hopefully to prevent unnecessary surgeries or repeat surgeries or revision surgeries because of misplaced screws or spinal instruments," explained Dr. Duncan.

Nearly 10% of the world's population suffers from excruciating back pain, which often requires multiple surgeries.

Critical for patients like LouAnn Thompson, who endured a number of surgeries on her spine for scoliosis, degenerative disc disease and spinal deformities.

"I had in my left leg a very sharp, horrible pain in my left leg that left me unable to walk."

Suffering excruciating pain, she remained bedbound for 45 days before undergoing surgery with Dr. Duncan, who inserted spacers into her discs and hardware to support her spine.

"He went through my front and took out everything and cleaned up the front, and then they rotated me like a rotisserie chicken and did the same thing from the back."

This stabilized her spine to prevent further pain and degeneration.

"My mobility is better," said LouAnn.   "I feel more stable."

NEW TECHNOLOGY:   There are three types of treatment for scoliosis patients.   Depending on the type of scoliosis, doctors can either keep observing it over time, get it braced or perform surgery.   For more mild cases, doctors use X-Rays over three to four months to make sure that the curve does not worsen.   Surgery is usually performed when the angle is more than 40 degrees.   Screws, rods, and hooks are inserted to try correct the spine, but sometimes patients have to have multiple surgeries.  The O-Arm device sits over the patient while the doctor performs the surgery. According to Dr. Jonathon Duncan, the O-Arm gives a clearer picture for surgeons. It is almost like a CT scan instead of X-ray. The picture comes out in both 2D and 3D.

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.