SHERIDAN — Sheridan Memorial Hospital will soon add spine navigation robotics pending a final decision by the hospital board May 2.
SMH Chief Financial Officer Nathan Stutte presented the potential use for the new equipment to the board of directors at its April meeting at a cost of $1.2 million.
For the past six months, Stutte and orthopaedic spine surgeon Dr. James Ulibarri with Sheridan Orthopaedic Associates, evaluated information regarding the equipment and will give the board one month to review the collected information before making a final decision.
The system, developed by Globus, is the only platform with combined robotics and navigation currently available for spinal surgery, Ulibarri said.
The system combines preoperative imaging with intraoperative virtual navigation, allowing for real-time guidance to accurately place screws for spinal stabilization procedures.
“This will increase safety, speed and accuracy of spinal procedures, especially ones that require hardware,” Ulibarri said.
Currently, Ulibarri performs standard and minimally invasive spinal surgeries on the neck, thoracic spine and lower back for degenerate disease, trauma, infection and tumors. Ulibarri said the use of navigation or image-guided surgery is becoming the standard of care in larger communities.
The closest place to Sheridan to find image-guided surgeries or navigation-assisted robotic spinal surgeries is Salt Lake City, which also serves as the first location in the country to provide a combined navigation robotic platform, according to Ulibarri.
A September 2016 article by the Colorado Brain and Spine Institute said in minimally invasive spinal surgeries doctors insert a tiny endoscope — a flexible tube with a light and camera on one end often accompanied by a surgical tool — through a small incision near the area of the spine on which the doctors will operate. The surgeon must then navigate the tool to the problem area itself, avoiding major blood vessels, nerves and other important internal structures.
Ulibarri said every week he refers patients to a larger center for a number of reasons.
“This robotics system gives me the ability to keep these patients in town and increases my ability for minimally-invasive surgery,” Ulibarri said.
Stutte said the nature of spinal surgeries naturally presents complex work, and the navigation equipment will prove an asset to help keep patients closer to home.
“This particular technology allows us to expand the scope of cases and types of cases we would be able to do in our community and have better outcomes with potentially shorter recovery times (for those operations),” Stutte said.
Even with the advanced technology, the institute said experienced spinal surgeons are still needed to run the equipment.
Stutte considered the research portion of the process a good opportunity to look at the back and spine service provided by the hospital, and the equipment will serve as an enhancement to the service already provided.
The $1.2 million system, if approved by the board May 2, will be funded out of the regular budget with no additional funds coming from the foundation or public outreach.