A Launceston research trial will evaluate how robots can facilitate inserting screws during spinal surgeries.
Orthopaedic spinal surgeon Doctor David Edis recently received a $9600 Clifford Craig Medical Research Trust grant to assist the innovative trial.
Whereas inserting screws during spinal surgery once required time and painstaking precision, the process has been made significantly easier by technology.
Dr Edis explained the technology was “effectively a guided system”.
"Our problem with the way we do it at the moment is it's really intensive on x-rays, as we use x-rays to guide the screw placement," Dr Edis said.
The innovative system loads CT scans into a computer, and a corresponding robot is placed on to a frame on the patient’s back.
“That robot twists until it turns into the right position, tells you which bit to connect, then it gives you a drill trajectory," he said.
The robot and its trajectory result in a surgery which is less invasive than one based on visual cues.
“We instruct [the robot] … it puts the device where we want it, we then operate down that tube,” Dr Edis said.
The randomised trial will take place on patients requiring surgery for lumbar spines disorder, who usually have back and leg pain due to nerve compression.
“The study is effectively around one particular screw trajectory, which is a less invasive screw type, which I've been doing for about three years," Dr Edis said.
"The surgeon still is in control of it and still needs to know how to do the operation ... the surgeon is still the one operating the tools but they're doing it without the x-ray machine in the picture.
“The robot's actually guiding everything off our pre-plan."
Dr Edis said the technology could alleviate “strain and stress” from the surgeon.
"Multi-level surgery is hard-work, it's mentally draining and it takes a lot of mental energy to stay on the game for up to four, sometimes six hours,” Dr Edis said.
Dr Edis said the robots had been in Australia for about two years.
He worked on two major cases in Melbourne involving the technology about 12 months ago.
Dr Edis said the study should be under way during 2017.
“The idea is to prove that the robot is at least as good as what we’d normally do,” Dr Edis said.