June 13, 2023
In the past, traditional surgeries relied on human dexterity and field of vision. Thanks to advancements in technology, robot-assisted surgical procedures are becoming more widely utilized, offering patients less invasive options and expanding the number of conditions that can be addressed with surgery.
The benefits are astounding: shorter surgery times, smaller incision sites, more precise treatment, and refined capabilities. All of these benefits combined mean robotic approaches can help lead to a shorter and easier recovery for patients — and in some cases, can mean a restored quality of life for conditions previously considered untreatable.
Surgeons are utilizing high-tech robotic tools to achieve impressive outcomes for conditions throughout the body — from cancer diagnosis and treatment to highly complex surgical procedures.
When it comes to complex conditions, the spine ranks among the most intimidating body parts to need surgical intervention. The spine is a critical and delicate part of the body and is crucial to our ability to move and function.
“It is not uncommon for patients living with back pain to avoid or delay surgical intervention out of fear of losing mobility” said Dr. Theresa Pazionis, a board-certified, fellowship-trained spine surgeon and assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine at Temple.
With modern surgical approaches, the capabilities to correct spine-related disorders and pain are more advanced than ever before. And with the capabilities of robotic-assisted surgeries and high-tech platforms that combine imaging and mapping with surgical functions, surgeons are helping patients achieve some of the best outcomes imaginable.
Eileen’s back issues began after the birth of her fourth child in 2002. A 2014 surgery solved some of them, but she still had major pain and ongoing problems.
Eileen suffered from spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal column that can cause pain by pinching nerves and compressing the spinal cord. She was also living with spondylolisthesis, a condition in which a vertebra slips out of place and onto the vertebra beneath it.
Eileen lived for years in constant pain, having difficulty doing everyday tasks like housework, or walking around the mall. Sometimes, she even had trouble getting out of bed.
“Even though I was in so much pain, I was so hesitant to undergo another spine surgery,” said Eileen.
After online research, she sought out the expertise of Dr. Pazionis at Temple Health.
“I came in for a consultation and she was shocked by the condition of my back—but she assured me she could help get me feeling much better,” Eileen recalled. “She was so confident in being able to treat me and was very clear in her explanations. I knew right away she was the right surgeon for me.”
To enable Eileen to live life without pain, Dr. Pazionis recommended decompressing nerves and correcting spinal deformity using interbody cages, rods and screws. These help restore the spine’s function and relieve pain. For surgery, Dr. Pazionis used a state-of-the-art surgical robot that allowed for integrated imaging to help ensure precise screw placement, which minimizes risk of surgery complications.
The robot integrates and navigates a patient’s unique anatomy, similar to how a vehicle’s navigation system directs a driver to their destination. This GPS reduces the need for fluoroscopy, or scans during a procedure, which reduces the radiation exposure required by a traditional approach.
Eileen’s operation was complex, but the robot allowed for shorter surgery than an open approach. “With the robot, screw placement takes about 45 seconds each,” said Dr. Pazionis. “The precision and efficiency are unmatched.”
After her surgery, Eileen was discharged within four days and has continued to beat the recovery expectations she anticipated.
Fully recovering from the procedure can take as long as a year, but Eileen has made great progress within only eight weeks.
She can now get up without experiencing pain, her posture has significantly improved, and she’s been able to perform daily tasks around the house again without difficulty.
“I almost feel like I got 20 years of my life back from this,” Eileen said.
That’s the type of result that can be expected with robotic spine surgery, Dr. Pazionis said.
“By enabling us to perform procedures more quickly and less invasively, robotic surgery allows patients to recover more rapidly,” she said. “This gives patients the confidence to agree to procedures that can greatly increase their quality of life.”
With decades of surgical experience, Temple Health’s specialists in advanced robotic surgery have achieved successful results for the most challenging conditions. To request an appointment, visit TempleHealth.org or call 800-TEMPLE-MED.