The use of navigation systems and robots in spine surgery has grown in popularity over recent years as advances in technology have raised hopes that these systems can lead to safer and more precise surgeries. However, the medical literature seemed inconsistent, leaving some to question their real world value.
A recent meta-analysis by Matur et al. in the Spine Journal has provided support for those in favor of the technology and could put an end to some doubts about its performance.
A total of 14 papers encompassing 12 randomized controlled trials were used in a pooled analysis which demonstrated that robotic and navigated pedicle screw placement techniques were associated with higher odds of screw accuracy, a lower risk of facet joint violations and lower risk of major complications.
Despite these apparent advantages, there are also some limitations which may hinder adoption of these platforms. Robotic and navigation systems are high cost technologies that make many health centers are hesitant to buy. Furthermore, the use of these systems necessitates a different skill set compared to traditional surgical techniques, and surgeon training can be a time-consuming process.
Nonetheless, put this one in the win column for proponents of navigation and robotics platforms. More studies are needed to validate these findings, but we’ll likely see even more adoption if the medical literature continues to show this type of support.