Dr. Patel Performs Groundbreaking Robotic Surgery in Switzerland

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Newly Developed System “Flawless” in First Live Human Trial

Altamonte Springs, Fla.—Returning to Central Florida after a productive trip to Switzerland at the end of September, Dr. Chetan Patel, medical director of the Spine Health Institute in Altamonte Springs, was all smiles. Having just completed the first live-patient trial of a revolutionary robotic surgical system that he helped to develop, he knew that he had just witnessed – indeed, helped bring about – a significant medical breakthrough.

The operation, a lumbar fusion in which Dr. Patel and Dr. Marc Morard at L ‘Hôpital du Valais in Sion, Switzerland placed four pedicle screws in a minimally invasive fashion into the vertebrae of a live patient, was performed with 100 percent accuracy using KB Medical’s newly minted AQRate™ Robotic Assistance System. Conceptualized, built and refined with the input of Dr. Patel and his fellow surgeons, AQRate is the first robotic platform designed specifically for use in spine surgery and builds on the successful elements of earlier prototypes.

“The system delivered on all of our expectations -- it performed flawlessly,” said Dr. Patel. “The patient did very well and there were no issues with the surgery. It was clinically and technically a success!”

The AQRate system consists of a compact, highly sophisticated robotic arm that is secured over the operating table by a mobile holding structure, plus a camera that tracks the position of surgical instruments in real time, and interactive navigation software. It is designed to allow surgeons to more precisely map, plan and execute spinal procedures with consistently superior accuracy, motion stability and patient outcomes.

The Future of Robotic Spine Surgery is Now

For patients, robotic-assisted surgeries offer the promise of potentially fewer complications, smaller incisions, less damage to surrounding tissues, and a shorter and less painful recovery. Yet, few spine surgeons have embraced robotics to date for two good reasons, says Dr. Patel.

One is the lack of a system designed specifically to accommodate the delicate and ergonomically difficult aspects of spine surgery. The other is the absence of high-quality, clinical evidence proving that robotic-assisted procedures lead to improved patient outcomes. With Dr. Patel now ready to initiate clinical trials of the AQRate system in the U.S., both of these concerns may soon be put to rest.

Here’s why the AQRate system represents a significant step forward for computer-assisted spine surgery:

  • A unique optical tracking system that allows for real-time views of instrument positions throughout a surgery, similar to the way a GPS system tracks the position of your car on a map
  • The compact size of the robotic platform means it requires less space in the operating room, allowing it to be employed in multiple settings
  • The superior flexibility of the robotic arm allows for a greater variety of angulations than can be performed by other systems
  • The system was designed to guide surgeons through multiple parts of an operation, and has the potential for standardization across a variety of spinal procedures in the future
  • By reducing the need for intraoperative x-rays, the system allows for potentially less radiation exposure for both patients and medical teams

From Concept to Development in Record Time

As a world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon and chairman of the North American Spine Society’s Robotics and Navigation Section, Dr. Patel regularly works with medical device manufacturers to develop new tools and techniques aimed at addressing needed improvements in the field of spine surgery. He’s participated in his share of clinical trials, and personally holds multiple patents for surgical innovations. Yet, he’ll be the first to admit that this test-drive of the AQRate system was different.

“It was the defining moment of my career thus far,” he says. “To have the opportunity to take something like this from the raw prototype to the point at which we’re actually using it in a patient and proving its capabilities – it just doesn’t happen that way very often.”

While it didn’t happen overnight, the three-plus years in which AQRate has gone from the conceptual phase to this week’s operation was a remarkably short amount of time compared to that required for most surgical advancements. And hopefully, Dr. Patel’s latest trip to Switzerland will go down in history as a seminal moment in the course of robotics in spine surgery.

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