Surgical robotics has demonstrated utility across the spectrum of surgery. Robotics in spine surgery, however, remains in its infancy. Here, the authors systematically review the evidence behind robotic applications in spinal instrumentation.
This systematic review was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines. Relevant studies (through October 2016) that reported the use of robotics in spinal instrumentation were identified from a search of the PubMed database. Data regarding the accuracy of screw placement, surgeon learning curve, radiation exposure, and reasons for robotic failure were extracted.
Twenty-five studies describing 2 unique robots met inclusion criteria. Of these, 22 studies evaluated accuracy of spinal instrumentation. Although grading of pedicle screw accuracy was variable, the most commonly used method was the Gertzbein and Robbins system of classification. In the studies using the Gertzbein and Robbins system, accuracy (Grades A and B) ranged from 85% to 100%. Ten studies evaluated radiation exposure during the procedure. In studies that detailed fluoroscopy usage, overall fluoroscopy times ranged from 1.3 to 34 seconds per screw. Nine studies examined the learning curve for the surgeon, and 12 studies described causes of robotic failure, which included registration failure, soft-tissue hindrance, and lateral skiving of the drill guide.
Robotics in spine surgery is an emerging technology that holds promise for future applications. Surgical accuracy in instrumentation implanted using robotics appears to be high. However, the impact of robotics on radiation exposure is not clear and seems to be dependent on technique and robot type.