SHERIDAN — Sheridan Memorial Hospital recently purchased and installed new technology for spinal surgery. The new system, ExcelsiusGPS™ manufactured by Globus, is the latest medical technology advancement in robotic spine surgery and the only platform with robotic guidance and navigation combined into one technology. According to hospital staff, the new design enhances safety and accuracy. Sheridan Memorial Hospital is the fifth hospital in the western United States and 20th in the country to have the combined robotic and navigation technology.

“Minimally invasive spine surgery is another example of our commitment to provide the best and most technically advanced patient care services in our community,” said Mike McCafferty, CEO of Sheridan Memorial Hospital, in a press release. “We are excited to be on the forefront of this amazing revolutionary technology and what that means for our patients and our community.”

Hospital staff said use of the new equipment offers numerous benefits to the patient including smaller incision, greater precision, less operating time, less blood loss, less tissue/muscle damage, less radiation exposure, less risk for infection, better outcomes, shorter hospital stay and faster recovery.

The robotic guidance system does not function independently. It does not cut or perform any action on the body. The surgeon still performs the actual work during surgery and is in full control of the system at all times.

Screw placement, which can be technically demanding to place free hand, has a 1.5 millimeter accuracy using the robotic technology. The technique permits the surgeon to separate the muscles surrounding the spine rather than cut through them. The surgeon then operates through small incisions along the spine. No additional X-rays are necessary during surgery, so patients and staff have less radiation exposure.

Hospital spokespeople said spine surgeons are able to use the new technology to perform surgeries on the neck, thoracic spine and low back to treat degenerative disease, trauma, infection and tumors. However, the decision to receive standard or minimally invasive surgery is individual to the patient and the patient’s symptoms.

James Ulibarri, a doctor with Sheridan Orthopaedic Associates, is a board certified orthopedic surgeon who is also fellowship trained and certified in spine. He performs standard as well as minimally invasive spine surgeries and dedicates his practice strictly to spine care.

“Minimally invasive spine surgery will have a positive impact for the people of this community who need spine surgery,” Ulibarri said in the press release. “Prior to having this technology, I occasionally had to refer patients to large urban medical centers if they were high risk, had tumors in hard to reach places, needed complex revisions or had complicated patterns of trauma injury. Now I can perform more of those cases here, which means patients can be close to home where they have the support of family and friends.”


How minimally invasive spine surgery works 

According to hospital staff, minimally invasive spine surgery requires planning and precision. Prior to entering the operating room, the surgeon uses advanced 3-D planning software to create a surgical blueprint for each patient’s particular condition.

From those images, the surgeon determines the size and placement of implants and creates a patient plan based on the individual’s anatomy. The blueprint also establishes the guidelines for the robotic tool in order to provide safe navigation around critical structures, such as the spinal cord, spinal nerves and major blood vessels. Once instruments are in position, it enables the surgeon to place implants safely and with the highest level of accuracy in the exact preplanned locations.

The navigation piece provides real-time visualization of instrument and implant positioning with respect to patient anatomy for the surgeon and staff to monitor continuously throughout the procedure.