EL PASO — The thought of going through spinal surgery is terrifying for most people, but a new robotics procedure is changing the invasive operation.
The new state of the art technology is called the Mazor Robotics Renaissance System, and it is allowing surgeons to spend less time in the operating room, and it also means spinal surgery patients are getting back on their feet a whole lot sooner.
Manny Castañeda is a former postman, but he's also a dancing man. So when he started having back pain that made it difficult to walk or even stand, he knew something had to be done.
"The pain was 24/7. At first it wasn't that bad, but then it went down my legs and I couldn't walk and I had a hard time doing anything," said Castañeda.
Castañeda saw several doctors who recommended he try prescription medications and steroid injections before resorting to surgery, but after both were unsuccessful, he finally met Dr. George Martin.
"It's the best thing that ever happened to me, no more pain," said Castañeda.
Dr. Martin has been in El Paso for four years and has been using the Mazor Robotics Renaissance System since August, 2012.
“It’s a robotic guidance that assists the surgeons in placing screws in the spine. The accuracy is within 1 millimeter. This type of accuracy basically promotes a platform where surgeries can be done with smaller incisions and can be done safer. This allows patients to get back to doing their everyday activities, back to work quicker,” said Dr. Martin.
There are only 18 locations in the entire United States that offer the Mazor Robotics Renaissance System, including Dr. Martin's office in Central El Paso.
Dr. Martin said this is the most advanced technology in spinal surgery today.
The procedure involves placing the patient's CT scans into a computer program that creates a virtual 3-dimensional plan that guides the surgeon on where to place the screw.
"In the operating room, we place the robot onto the patient’s spine with a secure mounting device and then we take pictures of the spine with x-ray machines and that translates the 3-D coordinates into the machine. Basically the robot then guides where we place the holes where we place the screws to the spine," explained Dr. Martin.
With the new robotics system, the incisions are smaller and there's less tissue damage and less blood loss, which means patients are back on their feet 2 to 4 weeks sooner that if they had a traditional surgery.
"With the traditional surgery our incisions are upwards of six to eight inches long. It involves stripping the muscles off both sides of the spine, which requires a longer amount of time in surgery," said Dr. Martin, then added, "With the robot we can make smaller incisions. They usually average around half an inch. This promotes less tissue damage, which again allows are patients to return to work and get back to doing our activities more safely and quickly."
Dr. Martin has performed about 50 surgeries since launching the program in El Paso, and said they have all been a success.
He also said the robotics procedure is covered by most insurance companies.