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Jennyfer Paulla Galdino Chaves, Joseph Maalouly, and John Yun Seo Choi

OBJECTIVE

In this study, the authors aimed to describe a new technique of sacroiliac joint (SIJ) fusion using a robotic navigation guidance system and to document clinical results with patient-reported visual analog scale (VAS) scores.

METHODS

Patients diagnosed with SIJ dysfunction were surgically treated using 2 hydroxyapatite (HA)–coated, threaded screws with the aid of the robotic navigation system. In a total of 36 patients, 51 SIJs were fused during the study period. Patients’ VAS scores were used to determine clinical improvement in pain. Postoperative imaging at routine intervals during the follow-up period was also performed for assessment of radiological fusion. In addition, complication events were recorded, including reoperations.

RESULTS

All 36 patients had successful fusion evidenced by both CT and clinical assessment at the final follow-up. Two patients underwent reoperation because of screw loosening. The mean preoperative VAS score was 7.2 ± 1.1, and the mean 12-month postoperative VAS score was 1.6 ± 1.46. This difference was statistically significant (p < 0.05) and demonstrated a substantial clinical improvement in pain.

CONCLUSIONS

Robotic navigation–assisted SIJ fusion using 2 HA-coated, threaded screws placed across the joint was an acceptable technique that demonstrated reliable clinical results with a significant improvement in patient-reported VAS pain scores.

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Zhuofu Li, Shuai Jiang, Xiongkang Song, Shanshan Liu, Chengxia Wang, Lei Hu, and Weishi Li

OBJECTIVE

The application of robots in the field of pedicle screw placement has achieved great success. However, decompressive laminectomy, a step that is just as critical as pedicle screw placement, does not have a mature robot-assisted system. To address this lack, the authors designed a collaborative spine robot system to assist with laminectomy. In this study, they aimed to investigate the reliability of this novel collaborative spinal robot system and compare it with manual laminectomy (ML).

METHODS

Thirty in vitro porcine lumbar vertebral specimens were obtained as experimental bone specimens. Robot-assisted laminectomy (RAL) was performed on the left side of the lamina (n = 30) and ML was performed on the right side (n = 30). The time required for laminectomy on one side, whether the lamina was penetrated, and the remaining thickness of the lamina were compared between the two groups.

RESULTS

The time required for laminectomy on one side was longer in the RAL group than in the ML group (median 326 seconds [IQR 133 seconds] vs 108.5 seconds [IQR 43 seconds], p < 0.001). In the RAL group, complete lamina penetration occurred twice (6.7%), while in the ML group, it occurred 9 times (30%); the difference was statistically significant (p = 0.045). There was no statistically significant difference in the remaining lamina thickness between the two groups (median 1.035 mm [IQR 0.419 mm] vs 1.084 mm [IQR 0.383 mm], p = 0.842).

CONCLUSIONS

The results of this study confirm the safety of this novel spinal robot system for laminectomy. However, its efficiency requires further improvement.

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Asham Khan, Mohamed A. R. Soliman, Nathan J. Lee, Muhammad Waqas, Joseph M. Lombardi, Venkat Boddapati, Lauren C. Levy, Jennifer Z. Mao, Paul J. Park, Justin Mathew, Ronald A. Lehman Jr., Jeffrey P. Mullin, and John Pollina

OBJECTIVE

Pedicle screw insertion for stabilization after lumbar fusion surgery is commonly performed by spine surgeons. With the advent of navigation technology, the accuracy of pedicle screw insertion has increased. Robotic guidance has revolutionized the placement of pedicle screws with 2 distinct radiographic registration methods, the scan-and-plan method and CT-to-fluoroscopy method. In this study, the authors aimed to compare the accuracy and safety of these methods.

METHODS

A retrospective chart review was conducted at 2 centers to obtain operative data for consecutive patients who underwent robot-assisted lumbar pedicle screw placement. The newest robotic platform (Mazor X Robotic System) was used in all cases. One center used the scan-and-plan registration method, and the other used CT-to-fluoroscopy for registration. Screw accuracy was determined by applying the Gertzbein-Robbins scale. Fluoroscopic exposure times were collected from radiology reports.

RESULTS

Overall, 268 patients underwent pedicle screw insertion, 126 patients with scan-and-plan registration and 142 with CT-to-fluoroscopy registration. In the scan-and-plan cohort, 450 screws were inserted across 266 spinal levels (mean 1.7 ± 1.1 screws/level), with 446 (99.1%) screws classified as Gertzbein-Robbins grade A (within the pedicle) and 4 (0.9%) as grade B (< 2-mm deviation). In the CT-to-fluoroscopy cohort, 574 screws were inserted across 280 lumbar spinal levels (mean 2.05 ± 1.7 screws/ level), with 563 (98.1%) grade A screws and 11 (1.9%) grade B (p = 0.17). The scan-and-plan cohort had nonsignificantly less fluoroscopic exposure per screw than the CT-to-fluoroscopy cohort (12 ± 13 seconds vs 11.1 ± 7 seconds, p = 0.3).

CONCLUSIONS

Both scan-and-plan registration and CT-to-fluoroscopy registration methods were safe, accurate, and had similar fluoroscopy time exposure overall.

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Karim A. Shafi, Yuri A. Pompeu, Avani S. Vaishnav, Eric Mai, Ahilan Sivaganesan, Pratyush Shahi, and Sheeraz A. Qureshi

OBJECTIVE

The accuracy of percutaneous pedicle screw placement has increased with the advent of robotic and surgical navigation technologies. However, the effect of robotic intraoperative screw size and trajectory templating remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to compare pedicle screw sizes and accuracy of placement using robotic navigation (RN) versus skin-based intraoperative navigation (ION) alone in minimally invasive lumbar fusion procedures.

METHODS

A retrospective cohort study was conducted using a single-institution registry of spine procedures performed over a 4-year period. Patients who underwent 1- or 2-level primary or revision minimally invasive surgery (MIS)–transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) with pedicle screw placement, via either robotic assistance or surgical navigation alone, were included. Demographic, surgical, and radiographic data were collected. Pedicle screw type, quantity, length, diameter, and the presence of endplate breach or facet joint violation were assessed. Statistical analysis using the Student t-test and chi-square test was performed to evaluate the differences in pedicle screw sizes and the accuracy of placement between both groups.

RESULTS

Overall, 222 patients were included, of whom 92 underwent RN and 130 underwent ION MIS-TLIF. A total of 403 and 534 pedicle screws were placed with RN and ION, respectively. The mean screw diameters were 7.25 ± 0.81 mm and 6.72 ± 0.49 mm (p < 0.001) for the RN and ION groups, respectively. The mean screw length was 48.4 ± 4.48 mm in the RN group and 45.6 ± 3.46 mm in the ION group (p < 0.001). The rates of “ideal” pedicle screws in the RN and ION groups were comparable at 88.5% and 88.4% (p = 0.969), respectively. The overall screw placement was also similar. The RN cohort had 63.7% screws rated as good and 31.4% as acceptable, while 66.1% of ION-placed screws had good placement and 28.7% had acceptable placement (p = 0.661 and p = 0.595, respectively). There was a significant reduction in high-grade breaches in the RN group (0%, n = 0) compared with the ION group (1.2%, n = 17, p = 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS

The results of this study suggest that robotic assistance allows for placement of screws with greater screw diameter and length compared with surgical navigation alone, although with similarly high accuracy. These findings have implied that robotic platforms may allow for safe placement of the “optimal screw,” maximizing construct stability and, thus, the ability to obtain a successful fusion.

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Daniel Lubelski and Nicholas Theodore

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George Chandy Vilanilam and Easwer Hariharan Venkat

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Anant Naik, Alexander D. Smith, Annabelle Shaffer, David T. Krist, Christina M. Moawad, Bailey R. MacInnis, Kevin Teal, Wael Hassaneen, and Paul M. Arnold

OBJECTIVE

Several approaches have been studied for internal fixation of the spine using pedicle screws (PSs), including CT navigation, 2D and 3D fluoroscopy, freehand, and robotic assistance. Robot-assisted PS placement has been controversial because training requirements, cost, and previously unclear benefits. This meta-analysis compares screw placement accuracy, operative time, intraoperative blood loss, and overall complications of PS insertion using traditional freehand, navigated, and robot-assisted methods.

METHODS

A systematic review was performed of peer-reviewed articles indexed in several databases between January 2000 and August 2021 comparing ≥ 2 PS insertion methods with ≥ 10 screws per treatment arm. Data were extracted for patient outcomes, including PS placement, misplacement, and accuracy; operative time, overall complications, intraoperative blood loss, postoperative hospital length of stay, postoperative Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) score, and postoperative visual analog scale (VAS) score for back pain. Risk of bias was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa score and Cochrane tool. A network meta-analysis (NMA) was performed to estimate PS placement accuracy as the primary outcome.

RESULTS

Overall, 78 studies consisting of 6262 patients and > 31,909 PSs were included. NMA results showed that robot-assisted and 3D-fluoroscopy PS insertion had the greatest accuracy compared with freehand (p < 0.01 and p < 0.001, respectively), CT navigation (p = 0.02 and p = 0.04, respectively), and 2D fluoroscopy (p < 0.01 and p < 0.01, respectively). The surface under the cumulative ranking (SUCRA) curve method further demonstrated that robot-assisted PS insertion accuracy was superior (S = 0.937). Optimal screw placement was greatest in robot-assisted (S = 0.995) placement, and misplacement was greatest with freehand (S = 0.069) approaches. Robot-assisted placement was favorable for minimizing complications (S = 0.876), while freehand placement had greater odds of complication than robot-assisted (OR 2.49, p < 0.01) and CT-navigation (OR 2.15, p = 0.03) placement.

CONCLUSIONS

The results of this NMA suggest that robot-assisted PS insertion has advantages, including improved accuracy, optimal placement, and minimized surgical complications, compared with other PS insertion methods. Limitations included overgeneralization of categories and time-dependent effects.

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Nicholas Theodore, Lola B. Chambless, Roger Hartl, Corinna C. Zygourakis, Bowen Jiang, and Themistocles S. Protopsaltis

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Zach Pennington, Brendan F. Judy, Hesham M. Zakaria, Nikita Lakomkin, Anthony L. Mikula, Benjamin D. Elder, and Nicholas Theodore

OBJECTIVE

Spine robots have seen increased utilization over the past half decade with the introduction of multiple new systems. Market research expects this expansion to continue over the next half decade at an annual rate of 20%. However, because of the novelty of these devices, there is limited literature on their learning curves and how they should be integrated into residency curricula. With the present review, the authors aimed to address these two points.

METHODS

A systematic review of the published English-language literature on PubMed, Ovid, Scopus, and Web of Science was conducted to identify studies describing the learning curve in spine robotics. Included articles described clinical results in patients using one of the following endpoints: operative time, screw placement time, fluoroscopy usage, and instrumentation accuracy. Systems examined included the Mazor series, the ExcelsiusGPS, and the TiRobot. Learning curves were reported in a qualitative synthesis, given as the mean improvement in the endpoint per case performed or screw placed where possible. All studies were level IV case series with a high risk of reporting bias.

RESULTS

Of 1579 unique articles, 97 underwent full-text review and 21 met the inclusion and exclusion criteria; 62 articles were excluded for not presenting primary data for one of the above-described endpoints. Of the 21 articles, 18 noted the presence of a learning curve in spine robots, which ranged from 3 to 30 cases or 15 to 62 screws. Only 12 articles performed regressions of one of the endpoints (most commonly operative time) as a function of screws placed or cases performed. Among these, increasing experience was associated with a 0.24- to 4.6-minute decrease in operative time per case performed. All but one series described the experience of attending surgeons, not residents.

CONCLUSIONS

Most studies of learning curves with spine robots have found them to be present, with the most common threshold being 20 to 30 cases performed. Unfortunately, all available evidence is level IV data, limited to case series. Given the ability of residency to allow trainees to safely perform these cases under the supervision of experienced senior surgeons, it is argued that a curriculum should be developed for senior-level residents specializing in spine comprising a minimum of 30 performed cases.

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Ruochu Xiong, Shiyu Zhang, Zhichao Gan, Ziyu Qi, Minghang Liu, Xinghua Xu, Qun Wang, Jiashu Zhang, Fangye Li, and Xiaolei Chen

OBJECTIVE

A clear, stable, suitably located vision field is essential for port surgery. A scope is usually held by hand or a fixing device. The former yields fatigue and requires lengthy training, while the latter increases inconvenience because of needing to adjust the scope. Thus, the authors innovated a novel robotic system that can recognize the port and automatically place the scope in an optimized position. In this study, the authors executed a preliminary experiment to test this system’s technical feasibility and accuracy in vitro.

METHODS

A collaborative robotic (CoBot) system consisting of a mechatronic arm and a 3D camera was developed. With the 3D camera and programmed machine vision, CoBot can search a marker attached to the opening of the surgical port, followed by automatic alignment of the scope’s axis with the port’s longitudinal axis so that optimal illumination and visual observation can be achieved. Three tests were conducted. In test 1, the robot positioned a laser range finder attached to the robot’s arm to align the sheath’s center axis. The laser successfully passing through two holes in the port sheath’s central axis defined successful positioning. Researchers recorded the finder’s readings, demonstrating the actual distance between the finder and the sheath. In test 2, the robot held a high-definition exoscope and relocated it to the setting position. Test 3 was similar to test 2, but a metal holder substituted the robot. Trained neurosurgeons manually adjusted the holder. The manipulation time was recorded. Additionally, a grading system was designed to score each image captured by the exoscope at the setting position, and the scores in the two tests were compared using the rank-sum test.

RESULTS

The CoBot system positioned the finder successfully in all rounds in test 1; the mean height errors ± SD were 1.14 mm ± 0.38 mm (downward) and 1.60 mm ± 0.89 mm (upward). The grading scores of images in tests 2 and 3 were significantly different. Regarding the total score and four subgroups, test 2 showed a more precise, better-positioned, and more stable vision field. The total manipulation time in test 2 was 20 minutes, and for test 3 it was 52 minutes.

CONCLUSIONS

The CoBot system successfully acted as a robust scope holding system to provide a stable and optimized surgical view during simulated port surgery, providing further evidence for the substitution of human hands, and leading to a more efficient, user-friendly, and precise operation.