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Allegheny Health Network Physicians Perform Pennsylvania’s First Robotic-Assisted Spine Surgeries Using Innovative Technology

Surgeons at Allegheny Health Network (AHN) have become the first in Pennsylvania to perform robotic-assisted, minimally invasive spine surgery using a sophisticated, new technology called the Mazor X™ system. The first procedure was performed at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) by Donald Whiting, MD, Chair of AHN’s Neuroscience Institute.

The Mazor X system utilizes enhanced analytical tools, precision guidance, optical tracking, and intra-operative verification capabilities to make spine surgery safer and less invasive for patients. The technology combines a suite of pre-operative analytics software designed to assess spinal alignment and implement computerized 3D surgical planning. Intra-operative guidance is provided to surgeons through a robotic surgical arm designed to guide tools and synergistic implants according to the pre-operative analytics.

"Our surgical team is among the most experienced and skilled in the country for the treatment of injuries to the spine,” said Dr. Whiting. "Mazor X greatly enhances the capabilities of our surgeons to help us achieve the best possible outcomes for patients undergoing spine surgery, including less post-operative pain, fewer complications and a quicker recovery. We are extremely pleased to be able to exclusively offer this innovative surgical option to patients in the western Pennsylvania region.”

The Mazor X system can be used to treat a host of conditions like spinal stenosis, scoliosis and spondylolisthesis that often cause debilitating symptoms, such as low back pain, leg pain and sciatica.

The technology can improve outcomes from spinal fusion procedures, or the process of fusing two or more vertebrae together to create a single continuous bone. Used to treat broken vertebrae, spinal deformities or spinal instability, surgeons often implanted metallic plates, screws or rods to hold and graft the bone to promote healing. An estimated 500,000 Americans undergo the procedure each year for low back pain alone.

According to Dr. Whiting, spinal fusion has traditionally been done using an open technique in which patients are susceptible to larger incisions and scars, increased blood loss, and longer hospital stays.

While less invasive techniques have helped minimize the trauma of surgery, many intraoperative X-rays are typically required without a guidance system to compensate for a surgeon’s compromised visualization.

Among its many potential benefits, the Mazor X system promises to reduce the risk of exposure to radiation from X-ray imaging typically used during surgery.

Compared to conventional open spine procedures, Mazor Robotics reports that patients who have undergone minimally invasive surgery with its technology experienced a 27 percent reduced average length of hospital stay, a 48 percent less complication rate, and a 46 percent reduced need for a revision procedure.

"The ability to pre-plan a patient’s spine surgery using Mazor X’s sophisticated 3D software allows us to create the ideal procedure for every patient’s individualized condition. It’s an optimal approach to treating patients who suffer from a variety of spine disorders, and enables us to help more patients recover sooner and return to their daily activities without the pain and discomfort that they previously faced,” said Terrence Julien, MD, a neurosurgeon at Forbes Hospital who is using the Mazor X system.

Other AHN physicians who will use the Mazor X technology include neurosurgeons Michael Oh, MD, David Oliver-Smith, MD, Richard Prostko, MD, Nestor Tomycz, MD, Brian Dalton, MD, and Daniel Muccio, MD; orthopaedic surgeons Daniel Altman, MD, and Gary Schmidt, MD; and pediatric orthopaedic surgeon Mark Sangimino, MD.

The addition of the Mazor X system builds upon AHN’s legacy of innovation in robotic-assisted surgery.

In 2015, orthopaedic surgeons at West Penn Hospital were the first to perform robotic-assisted total-hip and partial-knee replacements using the MAKO Robotic Arm Interactive Orthopaedic system. MAKO, which facilitates unprecedented accuracy in joint replacement, is exclusively available in the region at AHN’s Allegheny General, West Penn, Forbes, Saint Vincent and Jefferson hospitals.

AGH doctors were also at the forefront of using the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System in the early 2000s and currently use the pioneering technology at various hospitals to perform minimally invasive abdominal, urologic, gynecologic and cardiac procedures.

"Surgical care at AHN has long entailed the use of the leading-edge technologies and procedures across a range of specialties,” said Dr. Whiting. "Adding Mazor X to our world-class neurosurgical and orthopedic programs demonstrates that AHN remains committed to making investments in technology that yield tremendous benefits for the health and safety of the patients we care for.”


About the Neuroscience Institute at AHN
AHN’s Neuroscience Institute integrates leading medical experts in the subspecialties of neurology, neuro-otology, neuro-ophthalmology, neuroradiology, neuro-critical care, and neurosurgery to offer highly advanced care for patients with the most complex neurological disorders. Recognized as both a Neuroscience Center of Excellence and a Spine Center of Excellence, the program serves as a national and international referral center for treatment of all types of neurological conditions.

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