O-arm makes surgery more precise for better backs

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Nearly 10 percent of the world’s population suffers from excruciating back pain, which often requires multiple surgeries. But a robotic, 3D imaging arm gives doctors a precise look at the patient’s spine.

It’s called the O-arm, and doctors say it’s revolutionizing spinal surgery. The robotic arm rotates around the patient in the operating room and gives doctors a real-time, 3D look at how the surgery is progressing.

“It’s like getting a CT scan while you’re still in the operating room, so that if anything is out of place, we can fix it immediately,” orthopeadic spine surgeon Dr. Jonathan Duncan said.

The O-arm navigation technology uses 2D and 3D technology, encircling the patient on the table. This eliminates the need to wheel them into radiology during or after surgery. Surgeons can literally see the patient’s spine during the operation, giving them a clear, live view if changes need to be made.

“It can also be a tool hopefully to prevent unnecessary surgeries or repeat surgeries or revision surgeries because of misplaced screws or spinal instruments,” Duncan said.

This new aid is critical for patients like Louann Thompson, who endured multiple surgeries on her spine for scoliosis, degenerative disc disease and spinal deformities.

“I had in my left leg a very sharp, horrible pain in my left leg that left me unable to walk,” she said.

Suffering excruciating pain, she remained bedbound for 45 days before undergoing surgery with Duncan, who inserted spacers into her discs and hardware to support her spine.

“He went through my front and took out everything and cleaned up the front, and then they rotated me like a rotisserie chicken and did the same thing from the back,” she said.

This stabilized her spine to prevent further pain and degeneration.

“My mobility is better," Louann said. "I feel more stable.”

The O-arm also utilizes 3D navigational technology – GPS, like in your car, helps locate the critical points in the patient’s spine. And it’s all done without ever moving the patient.

REPORT: MB #4532

BACKGROUND: Scoliosis is the curving of the spine. It usually happens to children during their growth spurt. Most of the cases are mild, but it can become more severe causing spine deformities and disabilities. If the severity of the curvature is too bad, there could be less space for the chest causing the lungs to not function properly. The most common cause of the disorder is still unknown, but hereditary factors may play a part as the disorder runs in families. Other less common reasons are birth defects, injuries to the spine and neuromuscular conditions such as cerebral palsy.
(Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scoliosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20350716)

DIAGNOSING: Some of the most common symptoms are uneven shoulders, uneven waist, one hip is higher than the other, or one side of the ribs is showing more than the other. In mild cases, it is hard to tell as there is not any pain and appears gradually. Most often, sports teams will find out about the disorder first. A few tests are performed to assess the severity of the curve in the spine. The first test is the Adam’s Forward Bend. The doctor asks the patient to lean forward 90 degrees and stretch out the arms. While still bent, the doctor takes a scoliometer, or inclinometer, to measure the curve. To diagnose, the lateral curve, or Cobb angle, axial rotation and skeletal maturity are all taken into account. There are five different types of scoliosis. Congenital, which is present at birth, neuromuscular, degenerative and nonstructural are the other types, but if all four are ruled out, then the diagnosis is idiopathic.
(Source: https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/scoliosis/scoliosis-diagnosis

NEW TECHNOLOGY: There are three types of treatment for scoliosis patients. Depending on the type of scoliosis, doctors can either keep observing it over time, get it braced or perform surgery. For more mild cases, doctors use X-Rays over three to four months to make sure that the curve does not worsen. Surgery is usually performed when the angle is more than 40 degrees. Screws, rods, and hooks are inserted to try correct the spine, but sometimes patients have to have multiple surgeries.. Now, there is the O-Arm. This device sits over the patient while the doctor performs the surgery. According to Dr. Jonathon Duncan, the O-Arm gives a clearer picture for surgeons. It is almost like a CT scan instead of X-ray. The picture comes out in both 2D and 3D.
(Source: https://www.medicinenet.com/scoliosis/article.htm https://healthcare-in-europe.com/en/news/next-generation-o-arm-surgical-imaging-system.html)