Recent years have been marked by efforts to improve the quality and safety of pedicle screw placement in spinal instrumentation. The aim of the present study is to compare the accuracy of the SpineAssist robot system with conventional fluoroscopy-guided pedicle screw placement.
Ninety-five patients suffering from degenerative disease and requiring elective lumbar instrumentation were included in the study. The robot cohort (Group I; 55 patients, 244 screws) consisted of an initial open robot-assisted subgroup (Subgroup IA; 17 patients, 83 screws) and a percutaneous cohort (Subgroup IB, 38 patients, 161 screws). In these groups, pedicle screws were placed under robotic guidance and lateral fluoroscopic control. In the fluoroscopy-guided cohort (Group II; 40 patients, 163 screws) screws were inserted using anatomical landmarks and lateral fluoroscopic guidance. The primary outcome measure was accuracy of screw placement on the Gertzbein-Robbins scale (Grade A to E and R [revised]). Secondary parameters were duration of surgery, blood loss, cumulative morphine, and length of stay.
In the robot group (Group I), a perfect trajectory (A) was observed in 204 screws (83.6%). The remaining screws were graded B (n = 19 [7.8%]), C (n = 9 [3.7%]), D (n = 4 [1.6%]), E (n = 2 [0.8%]), and R (n = 6 [2.5%]). In the fluoroscopy-guided group (Group II), a completely intrapedicular course graded A was found in 79.8% (n = 130). The remaining screws were graded B (n = 12 [7.4%]), C (n = 10 [6.1%]), D (n = 6 [3.7%]), and E (n = 5 [3.1%]). The comparison of “clinically acceptable” (that is, A and B screws) was neither different between groups (I vs II [p = 0.19]) nor subgroups (Subgroup IA vs IB [p = 0.81]; Subgroup IA vs Group II [p = 0.53]; Subgroup IB vs Group II [p = 0.20]). Blood loss was lower in the robot-assisted group than in the fluoroscopy-guided group, while duration of surgery, length of stay, and cumulative morphine dose were not statistically different.
Robot-guided pedicle screw placement is a safe and useful tool for assisting spine surgeons in degenerative spine cases. Nonetheless, technical difficulties remain and fluoroscopy backup is advocated.